The Rockefeller Foundation recently announced a grant package worth US$11 million for organizations that promote Indigenous and regenerative agriculture.
The largest award will go to the Meridian Institute as it implements the Regen10 platform, which was announced at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27). Regen10 comprises a diverse coalition of changemakers, including farmers, philanthropists, non-profits, businesses, and more. The global platform seeks to ensure that half of the world’s food supply comes from production methods that benefit “people, nature, and climate” by 2030.
Regen10 advances three Hubs: The Frameworks Hub will help hone universal definitions, principles, and measurements of regenerative agriculture; the Landscape Hub will amass technical insight and data from existing food and farming projects to help prove the effectiveness of this holistic approach; and the Global Hub will target multi-sectoral changes, from public policy to business and finance, in order to execute farm transitions. The goal is to promote the knowledge, financing, and political will necessary in scaling regeneratively managed farming systems.
“Through Regen10 we intend to support a global community of farmers, Indigenous People, businesses and scientists to work in deeply collaborative ways,” Vice President of The Rockefeller Foundation’s Global Food Portfolio Sara Farley tells Food Tank.
In addition to Regen10, the Rockefeller Foundation’s grants will prioritize organizations that specialize in regenerative data, innovation, and markets. Grantee Smallholder Data Services’ mobile app allows small and regenerative farmers in South America, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean to track their practices while connecting to businesses and groups across the supply chain.
This investment in data and networks is key. “The vast majority of funding for research, development, deployment and extension globally for agriculture is rooted in conventional agriculture,” Farley points out. There is currently an insufficient understanding of the “barriers farmers confront in trying to shift away from reliance on chemical-dependent inputs” or the “premiums or market development linkages” regenerative farmers require for profitability.
But genuine commitments to regenerative agriculture cannot neglect the people whose work determines desired outcomes. “Without farmers at the center of any planned change to food systems, we have no hope that the change will endure,” Farley adds. Therefore, the Foundation’s funding prioritizes the farmers and land stewards as “key protagonists.” This farmer-centric approach more effectively helps grantees “build the alliances needed to pad the transition,” she says.
The US$11 million also offers an opportunity to “showcase Indigenous and traditional knowledge and food systems” while ensuring this knowledge is “valorized” and not “co-opted,” Farley tells Food Tank. Incorporating the social context of culture, community, and equity into reform efforts is equally important to discussions of environmental and ecological protection. “For too long those aspects have been cleaved off,” she says. But a more complete picture of regenerative agriculture considers the needs of native and local people as well.
To further these goals, the grants will support organizations that harness local wisdom in farming while overcoming challenges like land conversion or deforestation. For instance, one award recipient, the Amazon Conservation Team, works to promote Indigenous culture and sustainable land management practices while conserving the biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest.
“People get that the status quo has left us with decreasing productivity, lifeless soil, diminishing fresh water and biodiversity, human rights abuses and 11 million preventable deaths a year from diet-related disease,” Farley notes. “I feel hope that there is a seriousness of intent coming from farmers themselves and from companies willing to change course and to retool for a different type of production system.”
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