Without Farmers at the Center, Regenerative Agriculture Will Be a Slogan Not a Solution

The sole of your shoe could have an exciting tale to share. The first shoes made from Regenerative Outcome-Verified ROV(tm) rubber reached the market this month. The rubber is sourced from a small part of Thailand where rubber tappers and farmers are turning the monoculture rubber plantation into a diverse forest. Farmers are also cultivating mango, coconut, turmeric, and a variety of other crops that enrich the soil, boosting income and improving nutrition. The result is the canopy of protection that shields plants and people from the soaring heat of climate change.

ROV(tm) standard ROV(tm) Standard is a result of a cutting-edge collaboration with the farmers-led Regenerative Rubber Alliance in Thailand; VF Corporation brand partners, including Timberland(r) The North Face(r) and Vans(r); Terra Genesis, an regenerative design and development company as well as Smallholder Data Services. It is a prime instance of the regenerative agriculture movement, growing in popularity among brands, farmers, and the global climate-change community.

We know that agriculture, food systems, and climate change are interconnected. Food systems account for around 30 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases while climate change has been swiftly changing the way, what, and where crops can be grown, as well as the people who are farmers. Regenerative agriculture can reduce the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from agriculture and help farmers adapt to climate change while improving the well-being of the earth and people.

However, to realize its potential in regenerative agriculture, farmers, Indigenous Peoples, and other land stewards need to be at the front and front and center in developing an idea and setting the course toward regenerative agriculture. Their leadership regarding climate change and the food system is essential on the field and at global gatherings. Regarding meetings, such as next week’s AIM for Climate Summit in Washington DC, CEOs and government ministers will moderate panels and give keynote speeches; the farmers and Indigenous Peoples must also hold the microphone.

Regenerative agriculture can be found in various dimensions and forms, from the newest Kenyan entrepreneurs who create frass. This organic insect-based fertilizer is a better alternative to chemical fertilizers for farmers in Haiti who combine Okra, peanuts, and cotton and then digitally checks the crops’ regenerative capacity. Like the farmers-led Regenerative Rubber Alliance in Thailand, the leaders of these farmers are crucial to developing sustainable food systems and establishing the standards that will determine a regenerative-branded product. Without a solid and reputable system for regenerative agriculture, it is at risk of becoming a catchy slogan instead of a solution to our people’s and the environment’s health.

Several forthcoming meetings, beginning with the AIM4C meeting through the World Farmers’ Organization General Assembly (May 21-24), could catalyze a climate and food revolution at COP28 (the world climate summit for the world’s nations) this December in Dubai. In particular, two tangible results could propel regenerative farming ahead.

The first step is to form a coalition of significant landscape stewards and funders. Scientists, farmers, and businesses can create a method for consistently assessing positive regenerative outcomes ranging from biodiversity restoration to soil health restoration, farmer health and well-being to participation and voice of the community. Food producers, Indigenous Peoples, and local communities at the forefront of Regen10 Regen10 network are leading a worldwide cooperative effort to design this framework. One of the network members is the Ikea Foundation, which works with 40 partners in developing regenerative systems across Africa and Asia. Nico Janssen, Programme Manager of Agricultural Livelihoods at the foundation, states, “Regenerative is not only regenerative in food production, but the whole regeneration of local communities and economies.”

Second, partners could deliver a platform that raises and coordinates funding to address the most significant barriers farmers face in adopting regenerative agriculture–walls that include limited access to finance, technical assistance, subsidies, and policy.

When we think about the COP28 meeting, remember that the transition from extractive, carbon-intensive food systems to regenerative ones calls for the direction of those who make our food and manage biodiverse landscapes. Their wisdom and experience are crucial to restoring harmony between the land we graze and the natural world of which we’re an integral part and our own. Their work is essential in advancing nutrition, food security, and dealing with climate change. Beyond having a place in the dining room, these people must be involved as equal partners and able to effect change within the farms and across the landscapes they oversee.


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