September 27, 2023

Your shoe’s rubber sole could have a tale to tell. The first pair of shoes made with Regenerative Outcome Verified – ROVTM rubber hit the market last month. The rubber is harvested in a remote region of Thailand, where farmers and rubber tappers are converting a monoculture rubber plantation into a diversified canopy. Today, farmers also cultivate mango, coconut, turmeric, and a variety of other plants that improve soil quality, increase incomes, enhance nutrition, and create a shade structure that protects people and plants from the increasing heat of climate change.

The innovative collaboration between the farmer-driven Regenerative Rubber Alliance in Thailand, Terra Genesis, a regenerative design and development company, Smallholder Data Services, and partner brands Timberland®, The North Face®, and Vans® led to the creation of the ROVTM standard. It is one illustration of the regenerative agriculture movement, which is gaining support from farmers, businesses, and the community concerned with combating global warming.

We are aware of the connections between the food and agricultural systems and climate change. About 30% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the food systems, and climate change is having a dramatic influence on the types of crops that can be cultivated, how they can be grown, where they can be farmed, and who can farm them. The health of individuals and the environment as a whole may be improved through regenerative agriculture, which can also assist farmers in adapting to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

Farmers, Indigenous Peoples, and other land stewards must take the lead in expressing a vision and establishing a course for regenerative agriculture if we are to fully realize its promise. Their leadership is essential, both locally and in international conferences on food and climate systems. CEOs and government ministers will moderate panels and give keynote addresses at events like this week’s AIM for Climate Summit in Washington, DC; farmers and Indigenous Peoples must also wield the microphone.

Regenerative agriculture is implemented on a variety of dimensions and in a variety of ways, from farmers in Haiti who intercrop cotton, peanuts, and okra to young Kenyan entrepreneurs who make frass, an organic, insect-based substitute for conventional fertilizers. Their leadership is crucial for developing regenerative food systems and for defining the criteria for a product to bear the regenerative brand, much like the farmer-led Regenerative Rubber Alliance in Thailand. Regenerative agriculture runs the risk of becoming a catchphrase rather than a viable solution for the planet’s and people’s health without a solid and widely acknowledged framework.

A number of future gatherings, including the AIM4C meeting and the World Farmers’ Organization General Assembly (May 21–24), may help pave the way for a breakthrough on food and climate at COP28 (the international climate summit) in Dubai in December. Particularly, two observable results could support the advancement of regenerative agriculture.

An integrated system for the reliable assessment of regenerative outcomes, including soil health, biodiversity restoration, farmer well-being, and community voice and engagement, may be delivered by a coalition of major funders, landscape stewards, farmers, scientists, and enterprises. The Regen10 network is in charge of a global, collaborative effort to create such a framework, including food producers, Indigenous Peoples, and local communities at its core. The Ikea Foundation, one of its members, collaborates with 40 partners to create regenerative systems throughout Asia and Africa. Regenerative means more than just regenerating food production, as explained by Nico Janssen, the foundation’s program manager for agricultural livelihoods: “Regenerative means completely regenerating local communities and economies.”

To address the major obstacles farmers have in implementing regenerative agriculture, such as restricted access to financing, technical help, subsidies, and policy, partners might secondly provide a platform that generates and manages funds.

Let’s keep in mind that the people who produce our food and manage biodiverse environments must take the lead in the shift from carbon-intensive, extractive agricultural systems to food systems that are regenerative as we approach COP28. Restoring harmony between the land we farm, the natural world of which we are a part, and each other depends on their experience and philosophical outlook. To advance food and nutrition security and combat climate change, their work is essential. They need more than just a place at the table; they also need to be treated as equal partners and given the tools they need to bring about change on the farms and in the landscapes they manage.

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