In December, Shumei participated in the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 25) in Madrid, which was originally scheduled to take place in Santiago, Chile. Together with its partners IFOAM, Biovision and Regeneration International, Shumei co-hosted an official side event on December 12 called, “Transforming Our Food Systems to Support Natural Carbon Sinks”.
The side event focused on the importance of sustainable, regenerative agriculture to increase soil carbon and reduce ocean acidification to combat climate change. The event was well attended by more than 100 people, who came to hear about the work farmers, pastoralists, marine biologists, scientists and food advocates are doing to regenerate ecosystems to support the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. The session was moderated by Gabor Figeczky from IFOAM.
Precious Phiri, a training and development specialist in regenerative holistic land and livestock management in Africa, spoke about working with pastoralists in Kenya and the value of community organizing with farmers to build their leadership capacity to affect policy change.
Francisco Cornejo Soms, a long-established Chilean organic farmer, shared his experience as a family farmer and guardian of soil health, who stands up for the rights of millions of farmers and believes that healthy soil is essential for not only healthy crops, but healthy and resilient communities.
Barbara Hachipuka Banda, the founder of the Natural Agriculture Development Program Zambia in partnership with Shumei International, spoke about ensuring community resilience by ending reliance on inputs and preserving traditional farming knowledge and indigenous seeds, which are in danger of disappearing in African countries. She asked audiences to focus on the next generation of smallholder farmers and making agriculture a viable means of poverty reduction and climate change mitigation.
Christopher Cooke, the co-founder of 3LM for Land and Livestock Management for Life, shared the work of the Savory Institute to introduce a holistic mindset and the transformative impact of regenerative agriculture in the UK and Australia. He emphasized the importance of demand-led change and building awareness among consumers.
The last two speakers were Dr. Thomas Goreau, president of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, a nonprofit organization for coral reef protection and sustainable management and coordinator of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development Partnership in New Technologies for Small Island Developing States and Dr. Cristina Tirado, an adjunct professor at the UCLA School of Public Health, affiliated with the UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability, Director of International Climate Initiatives at the LMU Center for Urban Resilience and serves as Secretariat of the Mediterranean Cities Climate Change Consortium. Dr. Tirado is also member of the UNFCCC Research constituency and adviser on Climate and Health for several UN organizations.
Both of their presentations was rich with content and shared new perspectives on opportunities to support natural carbon sinks. Dr. Goreau specifically focused on reef regenerative farming and how to help coastal community be climate-proof and regenerate their ecosystems to reverse climate change. He shared several successful case studies and opportunities for growth.
Dr. Tirado brought forth a public health perspective and the value of changing our diets which would be better for our health, nutrition and the planet. She presented an opportunity to rethink nutrition for a global population experiencing high rates of stunting, under nutrition as well as obesity. She spoke about a new Planetary Health Diet with an opportunity to explore seafood and plant-based diets in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to combat climate change.
Overall, it was an opportunity for COP 25 attendees to hear from real people on the ground and to bring the voices of farmers into the discussions. While official negotiations struggled to determine a firm action plan to achieve the Paris Agreement, particularly rules around carbon markets, it was civil society who were able to attend this COP who expressed the urgency for action and community-led solutions. While progress was made on the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, there was great momentum in Chile with the launch of Regeneration International Chile as networks of farmers and food advocates gathered in Santiago to host activities and events to accelerate the transformation of our food systems through a regenerative movement.