Written by Alisa - 9 Minutes reading time

COP28: Global farming communities warn funding remains inaccessible amid concerns some countries are overlooked

News intro image

Nearly 100 agricultural leaders from North and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe are in attendance at COP28 in Dubai, demanding an equal seat at the decision-making table while flagging difficulties in existing governance. Food Ingredients First reports from the event, speaking with farmers, indigenous and other frontline community leaders attending the conference negotiations on sustainable food systems.

“For 28 years, smallholder farmers and indigenous peoples have participated at COP, even with much, much smaller delegations. Every year, there is minimal progress, even while more representatives participate and share their concerns and solutions year after year,” farmer Pablo Frere of Redes Chaco in Argentina, tells us.

“Progress is so slow. We need to raise urgency on the issue of climate change and food security. There needs to be a larger effort not just to bring voices from local communities in the global south to COP, but to ensure their participation in not just civil society spaces, but in the decision-making spaces at the event.”

“Society is very worried about our future. We’re worried about the fate of our oceans, were worried about the fate of our forests, were worried about smallholder farmers’ continuing ability to produce more than a third of the world’s food against more frequent and severe climate impacts, and about the survival and well-being of indigenous women and their role in the protection of biodiversity and sustainable farming.”

Surrounding COP28, there have been debates that world hunger is caused by disproportionate access and entitlement to produce rather than its availability. Speaking to this, Frere asserts: “It is true, the problem that we are facing around the world in Latin America — with the exception of Haiti that has systemic and severe food insecurity — is that countries are very rich in goods but have a problem of distribution.

“In countries like Argentina that produces food for more than 450 million people, ten times its population, we still suffer from food insecurity,” he underscores. “It is evident that there is a problem of distribution. Consumers are also growing in size. All of this is a challenge in terms of producing healthy, climate-resilient food.”

“We also need to develop technologies to be able to produce food more efficiently that is healthier — but this cannot come at the expense of local, sustainable development, nor can it come at the expense of the destruction of nature. A lot of the problems that we face today would be solved if the consumption of certain goods reduced, and the consumption of others increased. Technology has a huge role to play in this challenge.”

Bringing focus on indigenous farming communities

Maria Pedro de Pedro, administrative manager of the Association of Eulalense Women for the Development Pixán Konob, hails from Guatemala and tells us about the disproportionate attention paid to indigenous farming communities and their smart solutions.

“When it comes to initiatives to fight climate change, it is our indigenous communities and the smallholder farmers that know how to take care of Mother Earth that should be included and consulted in the development of climate solutions,” she voices.

“We should be asked if we are in agreement or not with these [COP28] proposals. Our Mayan communities have our own seeds, crops and plants that we are needing to rescue from extinction. Us Mayan people have our own hydroelectric projects that provide energy and water for our crops.”

De Pedro acknowledges that their projects often go unnoticed because “the interests of our governments and the global north are not to serve our communities.”

Despite this, she states that Mayan communities are actively working to enhance organic and native seeds, as well as traditional medicinal plants. She points out the contrast in approaches, highlighting that large companies often focus on the privatisation of transgenic seeds, diverging from their community-focused initiatives.

“So how can we contribute to economic development if we are not consulted and if our communities are not benefiting from the solutions being proposed? Before any project to help farmers and local communities are implemented, we need to be consulted to make sure that it is designed to respond to our needs.”

Richard Kachungufrom the Young Emerging Farmers Initiative, founded at the University of Zambia, remarks: “From my perspective, one of the things that hurts farmers is the placement of pressure on them to transition without providing access to incentives to help them transition?

“One example is the case of commodities prices. We find that the prices are very low and the market is not offering a good price for them to make profits, and then there is also the demand that they transition to an organic way of doing agriculture.”

“So if you’re going to go with one formula, it won’t work for all parties. I believe we should have routine follow-ups with the farmers in addition to these tailored solutions. Because it’s very easy for them to relapse and go back to their old systems.”

Calls to extend funding pipelines

From Panama, Briseida Iglesias Lopez De Guerrero, coordinator of territorial leaders at the Bundorgan Women’s Network, speaks to us about bottlenecks in funding that are straining operations on indigenous farmlands.

“Climate change is affecting us significantly, not just in the Guna Yala territory of Panama, but worldwide. Direct financing and more resources for indigenous and farmer communities are needed because our communities have always been guardians of the forest,” she says.

“I have always asked myself why companies or governments say that they have money and are willing to help indigenous and local communities like many have at this COP, but then none of it reaches our communities.”

“It would be important for governments to offer us help and for them to be knowledgeable of what is happening in our communities and the pressures that threaten our very own existence and the existence of our forests, of our medicinal plants, and of our traditional knowledge,” she asserts.

Maricela Fernández, Kábata Könana Women’s Association, Costa Rica, concedes that access to promised funds remains largely blocked. “We need technology in our offices and in our communities where information is not getting to them.”

“At COP28, there are opportunities for the development of many funds. However, in our experience, we know that the money rarely ever reaches the hands of indigenous women and communities. For example, Costa Rica is one of the countries that has received a lot of international aid for climate change, but where are those resources going?”

Kábata Könana Women’s Association has felt the strain of inaccessible funding, particularly in its initiatives led to improve nutrition. “Before the pandemic, our organisation started to work with more than 100 women in different stages of traditional food production. When the pandemic hit, we organised food swaps across all of our communities in Talamanca using WhatsApp. This program became a beacon of hope when many were facing food insecurity because of the pandemic,” says Fernández.

“However, we need help on the issue of strengthening capacity building and improving access to technology. For example, the ability to access computers to meet and coordinate virtually and to develop project proposals would boost our ability to coordinate with more food insecure communities.”

Importance of land rights

In the Gran Chaco region of South America, indigenous and local farming communities are demanding strong land rights. “This is of utmost importance. Land rights allow communities to develop a stronger relationship with their land,” farmer Pablo Frere of Redes Chaco in Argentina, tells Food Ingredients First.

“Farming communities will, of course, take care of the land regardless, but when they have legal rights to their territories and don’t have to worry about their future or face the threat of displacement, it makes it easier to protect and invest in their lands.

”When it comes to implementing solutions for climate-resilient farming, Frere stresses that governments should not simply take solutions that were adopted in other places and implement them without first “understanding the reality on the ground” and consulting local communities.

“In my country, the Gran Chaco has great potential for leading in the production of organic crops such as honey,” he details. “There are vast forest areas where the use of agricultural chemicals is absent which ensures high-quality, chemical-free products.”

“Honey, for example, is in great demand in places like Europe where they aspire to import 1,500 tons of this honey per year. With help, local smallholder farmers can meet this demand and improve the livelihoods of their communities.”

Kachungufrom at the Young Farmers’ Initiative echoes the statement that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to extending support to farming communities.

He says that, despite producing a third of the world’s food, small-scale family farmers in his region only receive 0.3% of international climate finance to adapt to climate impacts.

“I feel like the farmers need solutions that are tailor-made to their needs. Specifically, I feel like the training and more sensitisation on climate-smart agriculture could be very helpful for the farmers,” Priscilla Chitimwango, co-founder of the Young Emerging Farmers Initiative.

“And then that also should be tailored for the specific farmers,” she stresses. “Because there are northern region farmers who are not, for example, facing droughts. And then in the south, in Zambia, you’ll find a whole different scenario.”

Sharing accountability for methane

Methane is prominently a much discussed issue in climate talks. Methane-reducing scalable farming solutions have been at the forefront of emissions initiatives led by industry leaders across the board.

However, Frere of Redes Chaco asserts that each country should be in charge of reconciling its own share and quota of its historic contribution to climate change.

“That does not mean that others do not have a role to play in the fight against climate change, but the responsibility should only weigh heavy on those that have contributed the least to global warming,” he remarks.

“It is proven that methane emissions, to a certain extent, is a cyclical natural process. Termites, like cows and many other animals such as giraffes and elephants, emit methane. Of course, these other animals are not large contributors to GHG emissions.”

However, Frere maintains that the natural process of cows and other animals contributing to the regeneration of nature should be differentiated from other types of greenhouse gasses, such as those that come from fossil fuel extraction, for example.

“Methane production is a cyclical part of nature, and when done well by communities, in areas where other vegetation and crops would not flourish, cattle can contribute to sustainable development and food security. Each sector should be responsible for its own contribution to GHG emissions and climate change,” he concludes.

Interested in the dynamic Food Science Industry? Let our experts guide your career. Explore how we can help you today! Discover the possibilities here.

Also published by Foodingredientsfirst.com

Want to stay informed about current Life Science and recruitment news on a regular base? Then register here for free.