Farmers in developing countries will in the future be confronted with major changes. The ability to cope with these challenges rests on their capability to relate future problems to current behavior. Our approach investigates this capability and consists in comparing mental models of the present and future. The approach moreover enables us to explore whether and how farmers are able to imagine a future differing from the perceived present. Data from previous studies investigating present and future pesticide application were used. In the datasets the mental models of farmers' livelihood were structured into livelihood capitals (human, health, natural and financial capital), causal relations among the livelihood capitals were derived, and present and future causal relations were compared. The comparison of these causal relations led to six cases, each representing a different degree of dependence of future on present causal relations. The dependence was found to vary among farmers and analyzed livelihood capital. Three types of farmers with differing dependence patterns were identified. The differences found lead to new insights for policy recommendations, depending on farmers focus in their causal relations. We therefore expect that interventions focusing either more on the causes or effects of causal relations will result in a better uptake of knowledge by farmers.