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Claudia Radel

Department of Environment and Society

Chili peppers are the region's key cash crop
Cattle production, still limited in scale, appears to be growing in the region


Migration and Environmental and Agrarian Change in Southern Mexico and Central America

This research is in collaboration with Dr. Birgit Schmook at El Colegio del la Frontera Sur in Chetumal, Mexico.  Beginning around the year 2000, men from the southern reaches of Mexico's Yucatán peninsula began migrating to the U.S. in search of wage-earning opportunities, leaving behind women, children, and agricultural lands.  Although many men have now returned from the U.S., labor migration remains important to rural family incomes.  Many young women also help support rural families through work in nearby cities, and labor migration patterns remain highly gendered.  In our research, we examine the outcomes of these migration patterns for the wellbeing asset control of individuals, families, and communities, as well as for the changes in local agricultural activities and for the regional environment.  More recently, in addition to exploring the effects of migration on environments, we have started to examine how local environmental change, in part reflecting global climate change, may or may not result in labor out-migration.  Some of our published research to date was part of a larger funded research project in the region, on land cover and land use change (Southern Yucatán Peninsular Region LCLUC Project).  In 2010, we joined Dr. Nora Haenn in associated research on migration and conservation.  And in 2012 we began expanding our research to additional field sites in Central America, through NSF support.

We pose a variety of research questions:

  • What is the relationship between changing local environments in the rural global south and labor out-migration?
  • How might this relationship be mediated by social processes, especially gender?
  • What are the emerging impacts for women, men, families, and communities-- especially with regards to intra and inter-household resource access and control?
  • What are the likely directions of environmental change, and with what outcomes for forest cover and biodiversity indices?
  • As the viability of local natural resource-based livelihood production deteriorates for smallholder households due to a variety of processes (at different scales), how do men and women respond through changing livelihood strategies?
  • How do gender ideologies and practices shape those responses? 
Funding Sources:

NSF's Geography & Spatial Sciences Program: "CAREER: Gendered Transnational Labor Migration, Agriculture, and Environmental Change in Mesoamerica" (2011-2016)
NASA's LCLUC program and NSF's BCS program, core funding for the Southern Yucatán Peninsular Region project (1997-2009)
New Faculty Research Grant, Utah State University (2006-2008)
Anne U. White Research Grant, Association of American Geographers (2006)


Schmook, B., C. Radel, C. Méndez, J. McEvoy, and P. Petrzelka.  Forthcoming. Migración, género y tenencia de la tierra: Identidades femeninas complejas en el sector rural de Calakmul. In Género y Migración en México, Centroamérica y el Caribe (México: El Colegio de la Frontera Sur).

McEvoy, J., P. Petrzelka, C. Radel and B. Schmook.  2012.  Gendered mobility and morality in a south-eastern Mexican community: Impacts of male labour migration on the women left behind.  Mobilities, iFirst Online.

Radel, C., B. Schmook, J. McEvoy, C. Méndez, and P. Petrzelka. 2012. Labour migration and gendered agricultural relations: The feminization of agriculture in the ejidal sector of Calakmul, Mexico. Journal of Agrarian Change 12(1): 98-119.

Radel, C., B. Schmook, S. McCandless.  2010.  Environment, transnational labor migration, and gender: case studies from southern Mexico and Vermont.  Population and Environment 32(2): 177-197.

Radel, C., B. Schmook, and R. Roy Chowdhury.  2010.  Agricultural livelihood transition in the Southern Yucatán region: diverging paths and their accompanying land changes.  Regional Environmental Change 10(3): 205-218.

Schmook, B. and C. Radel.  2009.  Migración internacional desde una frontera agrícola y reserva ecológica: el caso del sur de la peninsula de Yucatán.  In Una Aproximación a las Migraciones Internacionales en la Frontera Sur de Mexico (El Colegio de la Frontera Sur), pp. 71-98.

Radel, C. and B. Schmook.  2009.  Migration and gender: the case of a farming ejido in Calakmul, Mexico.  The Yearbook of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers 71:144-163.

Schmook, B. and C. Radel. 2009.  Los Maridos en el 'norte'; las mujeres ¿bien gracias? Ecofronteras 36, mayo/agosto: 30-31.

Schmook, B. and C. Radel. 2008.  International labor migration from a tropical development frontier: globalizing households and an incipient forest transition- the southern Yucatán case.  Human Ecology 36(6): 891-908.

Radel, C. and B. Schmook.  2008.  Male transnational migration and its linkages to land use change in a southern Campeche ejido.  Journal of Latin America Geography 7(2): 59-84.




Women members of a community-based organization, Calakmul, Mexico   Self portrait of woman as a Calakmul farmer   Woman's group president operates the group's roto-tiller, Calakmul, Mexico

Gender, Agriculture and Conservation in Calakmul, Mexico

This project (2002-2012) built on my doctoral dissertation research in southern Mexico, in semi-subsistence farming communities surrounding the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve (2005 PhD dissertation title: Women's Participation in Conservation Projects in the Southern Yucatán Peninsula: Effects on Land Control, Farming Practices, and Women's Empowerment).   In research that combined qualitative and quantitative approaches, I examined how livelihood strategies are gendered and incorporate practices to re-define farming identities.  I also determined the effects of such strategies on patterns of resource access and control, particularly for land and for integrated conservation and development projects, and on group and household farming practices.  In my research publications, I employ a variety of theoretical frameworks to understand how gender, agriculture, and conservation intersect with impacts on women's wellbeing.

Funding Sources:

American Association of University Women's American Fellowship, Research Publication Grant (2008-2009)
Women and Gender Research Institute, Utah State University, Faculty Research Grant (2005-2006)
National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (2002)
Fulbright-Hays Fellowship (2001-2002)


Radel, C. 2012Outcomes of conservation alliances with women's community-based organizations in southern Mexico.  Society & Natural Resources 25(1): 52:70.  (Best student paper, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, AAG, 2005).

Radel, C. 2012.  Gendered livelihoods and the politics of socio-environmental identity: women's participation in conservation projects in Calakmul, Mexico.  Gender, Place, and Culture 19(1): 61-82.

Radel, C. 2011Becoming farmers: opening spaces for women's resource control in Calakmul, Mexico.  Latin American Research Review 46(2): 29-54.

Radel, C. 2005.  Women's community-based organizations, conservation projects, and effective land control in southern Mexico.  Journal of Latin American Geography 4(2): 9-36.  (Best student paper, Latin American Specialty Group, AAG, 2004).



Women members of a savings and credit cooperative in southern Ethiopia meet with Claudia

Gender, Livelihoods and Social Capital in Southern Ethiopia

This research project (2006-2012) was part of the larger USAID-funded, GL-CRSP project Improving Pastoral Risk Management on East African Rangelands (PARIMA).  My research was in collaboration with Dr. Layne Coppock and PARIMA staff member Seyoum Tezera.

The PARIMA Project facilitated the creation of savings and credit associations among the Boran and other pastoral ethnic groups in the southern Ethiopian rangelands.  Some of these associations consist of women exclusively or primarily, while others are of mixed-gender composition.  Existing research on collective action around natural resource management and household income generation suggests that women-only groups may improve the likelihood of group success and are more likely to lead to women's gender empowerment.  At the same time, research on the gendered nature of social capital and social networks implies that men may bring important social resources to the groups.  Thus there are contradictory signals regarding the preferred gender composition of such collective-action associations and contradictory hypotheses on the outcomes of mixed-gender compositions for goals of women's gender empowerment and household livelihood improvements.  Tied to the issues of women's gender empowerment and project-influenced changes in gender roles, there is a need to understand how gendered patterns of resource management and control may be changing through the associations' linkages with emerging export markets for livestock such as sheep, goats, cattle, and camels.  Both women and men now actively trade these livestock, and given livestock are traditionally important gendered assets in pastoral societies, it is unclear if gender-related changes in property rights are occurring.

In this research, we posed the following questions:

  • How is collective action and social capital for the production of sustainable livelihoods in southern Ethiopia gendered?
  • Does the gender composition of collective-action associations matter for women's empowerment, livelihoods, and household wellbeing outcomes?  And if so, how?
  • Are gendered patterns of property rights changing as collective-action associations become more involved in commercialized livestock production and trade?  How?
Funding Sources:

Global Livestock CRSP, United States Agency for International Development (2006-2009)
Advance Transitional Support Grant, Utah State University (2007)


Currently in draft 

Global Migrants, Guest Workers and Good Mothers:  A Comparative Study of Gender and Contemporary Labor Migration to Spain. 

This research project (2007-2012) was in collaboration with Drs. Peg Petrzelka, Christy Glass, and Susan Mannon.  We examined the construction of gender and motherhood in guest worker programs to bring women from Morocco and Romania, to pick strawberries in Spain.

Funding Sources:

Advance Collaborative Seed Grant, Utah State University (2007-2008) 



Mannon, S., P. Petrzelka, C. Glass, and C. Radel. 2012. Keeping them in their place: Migrant women workers in Spain’s strawberry industry. International Journal of the Sociology of Agriculture and Food 19(1): 83-101, Special Issue: Migrants in the Global Food System.