On November 9, 2022, during the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), the Rockefeller Foundation announced more than US$11 million in grants to ten organizations scaling Indigenous and regenerative agriculture practices around the world.
Evidence makes clear the central role food systems can play in mitigating climate change. The funding will help scale the development, data analysis, financing, and education around regenerative agricultural practices, which can improve global food systems and mitigate the global food crisis.
Regenerative agriculture, a process with roots in Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge and food systems, takes a holistic approach to production that starts with the soil and includes the health of people, animals, and the environment.
Together, these grants will establish the foundation to rapidly scale regenerative approaches by 2030 from Indigenous agroforestry in the Amazon to carbon-market financing of smallholder farmers in Africa and elsewhere.
“Regenerative agriculture offers a needed alternative to dominant, extractive food systems that have threatened people and planet alike,” said Sara Farley, Vice President of The Rockefeller Foundation’s Global Food Portfolio.
“Our goal 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,” she added.
Food systems produce about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, and agricultural expansion accounts for almost 90 percent of global deforestation.
Conversely, new research finds that transitioning to more sustainable food systems could contribute about 20 percent of the global mitigation needed by 2050 to keep temperature increases below the 1.5°C target. This change could also improve the nutrition and health of 3.1 billion people who currently cannot afford a healthy diet.
“Food systems impact every person on the planet and the planet itself,” said Roy Steiner, Senior Vice President for the Food Initiative at the Foundation. “Continuing to rely solely on conventional approaches cannot generate the profound shifts needed to improve food systems. The integration of traditional knowledge with other scientific and technological knowledge can transform food systems to be more resilient, nutritious, and equitable.”
The flagship grant is to the Meridian Institute, which will expand upon the work of Regen10, a global coalition galvanized to answer the question of what it would take to produce 50 percent of the world’s food in ways that benefit people, nature, and climate by 2030.
This effort will directly support food producers and landscape stewards to adopt and scale regenerative practices and work collaboratively with other organizations to better define and measure the impacts of regenerative agriculture. By bridging outcomes measurement with landscape-level demonstrations, Regen10 will support landscape leaders practicing or advancing regenerative agriculture to access financing, technical assistance, and data.
The Foundation is also providing funding and support to:
Grants for Indigenous Peoples’ Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Food Systems
- Amazon Conservation Team to advance and monitor Indigenous agroforestry and regenerative agricultural practices in two landscapes in tropical South America using a community-led approach. The project will engage traditional elders, women, and youth in the Andean Amazon and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (which is currently dominated by palm oil monocropping). The grant will support dialogue between the two communities as they connect biodiversity conservation, ecosystem management, and sustainable agriculture.
- Deep Medicine Circle to support its Farming as Medicine program by returning land to Indigenous People; recognizing farmers as health stewards; elevating evidence of the regenerative impacts of Indigenous food systems; decommodifying food; and removing fruits, herbs, and vegetables from the market economy and returning them to a system of care. The grant will support Indigenous land management on the 38-acre Te Kwe A’naa Warep (Honor Mother Earth) farm in rural Ramaytush territory (San Gregorio, California).
- Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty to demonstrate how people and landscapes thrive through Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems, working with Indigenous youths in Northeast India; Northern Thailand; Mau Forest, Kenya; and Quintana Roo, Mexico. The organization will provide training, build capacity, and networks to support a cadre of skilled and passionate Indigenous Peoples Youths who will anchor future activities. The grant will also support a global Indigenous Regenerative Food Systems Summit in 2024.
- RSF Social Finance in support of the Pawanka Fund, which aims to deepen collaboration among community-oriented NGOs in Kenya, Brazil, Nigeria, Fiji, and Canada. The NGOs will work with their communities to operate Indigenous Food Systems Solution Lab and provide microgrants to implement the most promising Indigenous-led and locally developed regenerative agriculture solutions. Lessons will be shared across countries and contexts.
Grants for Regenerative Data and Networks
- Dalberg Catalyst to make a package of climate-smart agricultural technologies available to smallholder farmers in Africa, and to understand the price of carbon needed for farmers to benefit. The package contains solar irrigation systems, biodigesters, and soil carbon measurement. The project aims to overcome market limitations around the uptake of climate-smart practices and demonstrate that smallholder farmers provide an important climate solution.
- Ecdysis Foundation to develop a Fellowship for Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color to train under-represented groups in regenerative agriculture and related science through the North American-based 1000 Farms Initiative. The project will also collect and analyze farm-level data on yield, profitability, biodiversity, water quality, and more around sustainable regenerative agricultural practices across 1,000 farms in the United States before expanding globally. This data will also be used by the Foundation-funded Periodic Table of Food Initiative (PTFI), which is creating a global public database of the biochemical composition and function of foods grown under different conditions.
- Smallholder Data Services 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 is fully represented in the ongoing development of regenerative agriculture. The project will synthesize this data into recommendations, best practices, and guidelines for global use.
Grants for Regenerative Impact and Scaling
- AGRA to advance the availability of biofortified foods (iron-and zinc-rich beans and Vitamin A-enriched maize) for institutional markets in Kenya, Malawi, and Tanzania, with a focus on school meals reaching 1.2 million children. The project will regenerate soil health across an expanded area cultivated with soil nitrogen-fixing beans.
- Naandi Foundation to apply a home-grown economic model for regenerative agriculture in India, as an alternative to the existing system that has left 35.5 percent of children under five stunted, and 67.1 percent anemic. The project will support the testing and scaling of regenerative, nourishing food systems, applying a True Cost Accounting Additionally, the project will offer evidence on the capacity to integrate regeneratively produced food into India’s Public Distribution System of subsidized foods, a procurement system that serves around 800 million people.
“Though we are still learning, available data reveals regenerative agriculture not only sequesters carbon, conserves soil and water, protects biodiversity, and enables farm communities to prosper,” said Betty Kibaara, Director of the Food Initiative at The Rockefeller Foundation’s Africa Regional Office. “These sorts of approaches promote resilient and nourishing food systems.”
The funding is part of The Rockefeller Foundation’s March 2022 commitment of USD 105M to make healthy and sustainable foods more accessible globally. In addition to its focus on regenerative agriculture, the Foundation’s initiative is revolutionizing the science of nutrition and working with governments to transition food procurement programs for school meals—which serve 388 million children globally—to whole grains and other healthy foods. Other Good Food work envisions the future food system and supports food system visionaries.