Farmer participation is the key to environmental protection, innovative agricultural finance

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Improving information management and market systems, as well as involving farmers are essential to protect the environment and design innovative and equitable financial instruments adapted to farming communities.

These are the main messages of a regional forum co-organized by the Southeast Asia Regional Center for Agricultural Studies and Research, hosted by the Philippine government, the Commission on Intensification of Agriculture (CoSAI) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Asia, according to a press release.

Entitled “Paying for Nature and Society: Dialogue on Innovative Financial Mechanisms to Promote Equity and Sustainability in Agriculture-Asia”, the online event was the second in a series of regional discussions to understand how encourage farmers to protect and restore nature.

He drew attention to agriculture as a force for good in environmental conservation.

Dr Dindo Campilan, Regional Director of the IUCN Asia and Oceania Center, highlighted the importance of innovation in financial instruments to promote environmental sustainability.

Meanwhile, Dr Ximena Rueda from CoSAI and the Universidad de los Andes discussed financial instruments developed for conservation that offer huge opportunities for expansion into agricultural landscapes.

She stressed that to be more effective, innovations must take into account political, technological and institutional factors affecting farmers and other target stakeholders.

Different perspectives and experiences regarding the design or implementation of innovative financial incentives in agriculture were shared by a panel made up of leaders from national government, Asian organizations and the private sector.

They discussed the ways in which financial incentives are designed as well as aspects of the replicability, scalability and timing of financial incentives in agriculture to support sustainable and equitable development.

Sri Lanka’s agricultural technology secretary Gamini Samarasinghe explained that farmers in his country were receiving incentives from the Ministry of Agriculture through locally funded projects to help support production.

He added that to provide an enabling environment for farmers, the Sri Lankan government is also establishing efficient and inclusive market systems and strengthening information management systems on land, production, subsidies and value chains. .

The need to provide incentives to farmers was affirmed by Irish Baguilat of the Asian Farmers’ Association (AFA), citing how farmer organizations can play a key role in promoting innovative new green financial instruments.

One example she spoke of is AFA’s joint project with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Bangladesh, which is promoting financial instruments on a larger scale.

Dr Prasun Kumar Das, Secretary General of the Asia-Pacific Association for Rural and Agricultural Credit (Apraca), one of Asia’s largest agricultural development banks, shared his experience in advocating for financial instruments through the Apraca bias.

He noted that the challenges for farmers included insufficient income to prove their creditworthiness, fear of going into deep debt, lack of insurance coverage, volatility of borrower businesses and lack of technical know-how.

He affirmed Rueda’s observation that financial instruments must be able to contextualize environmental, social and governance factors in target farming communities.

Erin Sweeney, Head of Sustainability Investing and Inclusion at Grow Asia, highlighted the need for greater collaboration across value chains to promote known solutions and best practices.

She stressed the need for better policies to bridge the gap between the needs of farmers and the demands of sustainability standards.

Eelko Bronkhorst, Managing Director of Financial Access, said one of the main challenges is the disconnect between investment opportunities and the demands of investing in sustainable agriculture.

He noted that it is important to bring together the different models and pilots from around the world and identify how they can be contextualized by target stakeholder to maximize the potential of these financial instruments.

Searca Director Dr Glenn B. Gregorio said the pandemic has highlighted the need for efficient and innovative financial mechanisms accessible to food producers and farm families.

He expressed hope that the dialogue will help convince financial service providers to invest and offer products more conducive to sustainable agriculture.

He also reiterated that strengthening links between academia, industry and government can provide the tools necessary to promote equity and sustainability in agriculture, an advocacy in line with Searca’s emphasis on accelerating transformation through agricultural innovation, according to Searca’s press release.

Image courtesy of Photo from Searca’s website

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