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What did COP27 bring for Regenerative Agriculture?

The negative effects of climate change have caused a tremendous increase in the global food crisis, environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss. Several initiatives and solutions have existed over time to curb these effects; however, their impacts can only be seen when partnerships are established to scale such solutions. 

The founder and CEO of reNature, Felipe Villela represented the organization at this year’s COP27 to work together with other global leaders in suggesting and implementing solutions to climate-related problems. He participated in several panel discussions and moderated one of the panels at the Food Systems Pavilion on November 11, 2022. The central focus of his discussion is how regenerative agriculture can be implemented globally and used as a tool for restoring the climate.

COPS have always been an opportunity for global leaders to come together in order to discuss climate issues. It is an avenue for global leaders to make decisions and implement policies that help to build our planet by curbing the effects of climate change. This year’s COP, tagged COP27, was no different. Global leaders from different parts of the world, representing different organizations and governments, came together to address issues related to climate change.

COP27 is known to be the 27th United Nations Climate Conference and was held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. It lasted for two weeks, spanning between November 6 and November 18, 2022. The conference was expected to deliver action on an array of issues critical to tackling the climate emergency. This involves urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience, and adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change. It is also targeted at delivering commitments from global leaders to finance climate action in developing countries.

“COP27 creates a unique opportunity in 2022 for the world to unite, to make multilateralism work by restoring trust and coming together at the highest levels to increase our ambition and action in fighting climate change. COP27 must be remembered as the Implementation COP, the one where we restore the grand bargain that is at the center of the Paris Agreement.”

Sameh Shoukry, Minister of Foreign Affairs Egypt & COP27 President

Speaking at the event, African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat attested to the challenges facing Africa, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, and therefore urged member countries to be steadfast in their fight for climate justice. 

Also speaking, the president of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina reiterated that the global output of Africa as a continent can be impacted by agriculture as a result of the continent’s vast and unique arable land, adding that several climate actions have been adopted by the organization to boost mitigation and adaptation.

Antonio Pedro, acting executive director for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, said that it is important to invest in green recovery as this is essential to accelerating food systems in order to achieve the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

According to the Food Systems Pavilion, the system is expected to focus on actions, strategies, and solutions across the entire food value chain that have the potential to drive the transformation towards healthier, more resilient, and more equitable food systems. As a result of the increasing effects of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Ukraine war, food producers, consumers, and other stakeholders across the food system are more vulnerable to food insecurity and increased poverty. This then calls for the transformation of food systems’ resilience, as well as food and nutrition security for all, in a way that provides strong economic, social, cultural, and ecological foundations for future generations. 

While highlighting the challenges, the proffered strategic actions from global leaders to curb them include engaging farmers and consumers, and aligning mitigation and adaptation efforts for inclusive, resilient, and nature-positive food systems. This therefore leads to how regenerative agriculture practices can help improve global food systems by restoring soil health and ensuring sustainable food production globally.

“In the end, what truly matters is the outcomes. And you can only measure success if you know what kind of increase you have in regaining soil carbon, what kind of increase you have on biodiversity, on food security, on economic performance and so forth.”

Felipe Villela, Co-Founder of reNature.

What did the leaders agree together and how does this help the farmer in the field? 

COP27 served as the perfect platform for global leaders to express their passion in curbing the effects of climate change this year. Several pledges were made in order to build our planet, ensure global food security and reduce poverty.

Signing of $25 billion memorandum of understanding

In the quest to prepare the continent for the consequences of climate change faster and at scale, the African Union Commission, in conjunction with the Global Center for Adaption, signed a memorandum of understanding in order to mobilize a minimum amount of $25 billion for the African Adaptation Acceleration Program established by the Center and the African Development Bank over five years. This will help the continent make the necessary preparations to reduce the further impacts of climate change.

Role of the IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), through partnership with the World Bank, has identified and stepped up on the major importance of the green transformation for economic cooperation and development, Network for Greening the Financial system, amongst others. Having incorporated climate considerations in all aspects of the IMF work, the Resilience and Sustainability Trust, being the first ever long-term financing tool now has over $40 billion in funding pledges in collaboration with three staff-level agreements with Barbados, Costa Rica, and Rwanda, thereby overcoming the global challenges through the support for this instrument.

Funding IFAD to invest in global food security

Alvaro Lario, President of IFAD (Left)

Focusing on the improvement of food security and reducing poverty in rural areas, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) signed their first financial agreement at the event. It was said that the European Investment Bank will support the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development by lending EUR 500 million to support the organization’s program of targeted loans that aim to improve food security and reduce poverty in rural areas. It is expected that this financing will strengthen the organization’s quick response to assist small-scale farmers to adapt to climate change and cope with the current global food, fertilizer, and fuel crises. According to the President of IFAD, Alvaro Lario, the loan is projected to help IFAD multiply its impact on the ground, supporting the poorest people living in rural areas, thereby diversifying the funding sources of the organization. 

Also speaking, Vice President of the European Investment Bank, Ambroise Fayolle, stated that the EIB recognizes the urgent need to support vulnerable communities around the world threatened by the risk of famine, unpredictable and extreme weather, food shortages, and agricultural challenges. The fund support for IFAD will help scale up targeted and sustainable investment to enhance food security, improve farming, tackle poverty, and increase agricultural productivity in rural communities most impacted by a changing climate. This is based on the premise that EIB and IFAD have a mutual vision for improving food security and fighting poverty in rural areas by supporting small-scale farmers and rural communities. 

Emphasizing accountability, government officials at COP27 including the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said that out of the $12 billion committed in Glasgow to protect and restore forests over 2021–2025, $2.67 billion has been spent and that public and private donors have committed a further $4.5 billion since COP26. Therefore, the Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership (FCLP), which was also launched at COP27, will engage in annual meetings and also publish a Global Progress Report annually that includes independent assessments of global progress toward the 2030 goal, and progress made by the FCLP itself.

Announcement of ten grants to scale Indigenous and Regenerative Agriculture Practices.

In order to curb the compounding crises of climate, hunger, and malnutrition through community-led changes to global food systems, the Rockefeller Foundation has declared a commitment of over $11 million in grants to ten organizations. This was also announced by the Rockefeller Foundation while announcing Ten Grants at the COP27 in order to scale indigenous and regenerative agriculture practices globally. It is believed and expected that this step will improve global food systems and mitigate the global food crisis.

The grants are expected to establish the foundation for rapidly scaling regenerative approaches by 2030, from indigenous agroforestry in the Amazon to carbon market financing of smallholder farmers in Africa and globally. It is expected that Regen10 will support landscape leaders engaging in regenerative agriculture so as to access financing, technical assistance, and data.

The foundation is also providing funding and support, such as 

  • Grants for indigenous Peoples’ additional Ecological Knowledge and Food Systems in order to monitor indigenous agroforestry and regenerative agriculture in two landscapes in tropical South America using a community-led approach. It will also support indigenous partnerships for agrobiodiversity and food sovereignty.
  • Grants for Regenerative Data and Networks so as to make available a package of climate-smart agricultural technologies to smallholder farmers in Africa, also to train under-represented groups in regenerative agriculture and related science through the North American-based 1000 Farms Initiative, and to collect and analyze data from smallholder farmers practicing regenerative agriculture in Southeast Asia, South America, and the Caribbean, ensuring that their experience and voice are fully represented in the ongoing development of regenerative agriculture.
  • Grants for Regenerative Impact and Scaling will as well regenerate soil health across an expanded area cultivated with soil nitrogen-fixing beans. It will also apply a homegrown economic model for regenerative agriculture in India as an alternative to the existing system.

In addition to the organization’s focus on regenerative agriculture, the funding is part of The Rockefeller Foundation’s March 2022 commitment of $105 million so as to allow global accessibility of healthy and sustainable foods. Moreover, the initiative of the Foundation is revolutionizing the science of nutrition and, hence, working with governments to transition food procurement programs for school meals, serving 388 million children globally. 

Nestle’s Reforestation Project

As mentioned earlier, this year’s COP creates a perfect platform for global leaders to contribute towards restoring the climate through various climate based projects. One of such projects is a reforestation program by Nestlé. At this year’s COP27, Nestlé pledged to plant a total of 10 million trees in Australia by 2025 as a means of scaling regenerative agriculture practices and reducing greenhouse gases through nature based solutions. According to the Executive Vice President and Head of Operations, Magdi Batato:

“This reforestation program in Australia is an important step forward in our road to net zero by 2050. Beyond the positive impact on our carbon footprint, this partnership will protect natural resources, accelerate the transition to regenerative agriculture and food systems as well as provide local communities with economic benefits.” 

Magdi Batato, Executive Vice President and Head of Operations,, Nestlé

It has been proven that global leaders are very intentional about restoring the climate in order to create a healthy planet and ensure food sustainability. Scaling regenerative agriculture globally would help sequester more carbon and rebuild the soil. This is a very sure means of reversing the effects of climate change, and global leaders are beginning to channel resources in this direction.

Which platforms and initiatives were launched and how does this help the farmer in the field?

Improving the quantity and quality of climate finance contributions to transform agriculture and food systems by 2030, the presidency of the COP27 also launched the Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation (FAST), supporting adaptation and maintaining a 1.5-degree pathway while supporting food and economic security.

The Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) also announced an increased investment of more than USD 8 billion, up from USD 4 billion at COP26. This came with the support of more than 275 government and non-government partners. This investment consists of over $7 billion being supported by government partners with contributions from over 20 reputable countries, including Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, and Denmark, amongst others, stocking over USD 1 billion in investment from 30 Innovation Sprints. 

In addition to this, in order to direct financial flows to food supply chains in Africa, the African Food Systems Transformation Initiative (AFSTI) and 70 African-owned agri-businesses made an announcement on their action plan, as this will draw finance, philanthropy, multilateral development banks, and private sources, targeting several overlooked agri-businesses and food processors who are pivotal to transforming the food outlook in Africa. 

Meanwhile, for the facilitation of carbon removers while combining the most bespoke and accurate carbon accounting practices for nature-based solutions, the Open Natural Carbon Removal Accounting (ONCRA) framework was launched at the event, thereby enabling several thousand carbon remover entrepreneurs to sell their carbon credits.

Conclusively, the African Agriculture Climate Adaptation Research System also tendered proposal request for seed projects and transition to scale projects, with a funding level of USD $100,000 for the seed projects (proof of concept projects) and USD $200,000 for the transition to scale projects. All these projects are also expected to be completed within a grant term of 18 to 24 months.

What has been said about regenerative agriculture in general

An interview session with reNature’s Founder, Felipe Villela gave more insights on food-related issues addressed at COP27. He participated in several panels during the conference where topical issues were discussed. One of such discussions he had was with leaders from Nestlé, Rabobank, Kering, Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU), and Partnerships for Forests. The discussion was centered on the role of the private sector in accelerating the transition to regenerative agriculture. 

Juliana Tinoco, from Partnerships for Forests (P4F), explained how her organization supports initiatives with a market-based approach. These initiatives, according to her, must have impacts on either reducing deforestation or promoting forest restoration. Marie-Claire Daveu, representing Kering, said that a majority of their raw materials come directly from nature. Hence, they are working towards transforming one million hectares of farmland from conventional agriculture to regenerative agriculture. Morgan Gillespy, from the Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU), described how her organization helps transform food and land systems. She also pointed out how scaling regenerative agriculture can increase its impacts. Other representatives, including Barbara Baarsma from Rabo Carbon Bank and Owen Bethell from Nestlé, described how their organizations are reducing the carbon impact through finance and encouraging supply from regenerative sources.

Felipe also mentioned during the interview that COP27 is unique as relevant topics such as regenerative agriculture were discussed for the first time at such a conference. He however mentioned that we should have more implementation than mere discussion so that we all can see the desired change we want. 

He further mentioned that a major challenge we are facing in the industry is how to ensure that funds released during COP27 get to the farmers, who, as we know, are key players in ensuring global food security. It will be best to have these farmers participate in subsequent COPS in order to hear their views and ensure that the necessary impacts are channeled in the right direction.

The Vice President of The Rockefeller Foundation’s Global Food Portfolio, Sara Farley, while giving comments on regenerative agriculture, said that regen ag is a process with roots in Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge and food systems and that it takes a holistic approach to production that starts with the soil and includes the health of people, animals, and the environment. She further stated that the goal of the foundation is to develop the know-how, networks, and innovations needed to realize the full potential of regenerative agriculture at a moment of crises and climate change.