Dr. Ajita Tiwari Padhi, Senior Specialist-NbS and Resilience at the ICC, reflects on key takeaways from the launch of the Bharat Agroecology Fund in August, 2023 in Bengaluru, India.

“If you’re truly working in the interest of the farmers, ecosystems, and climate, it has to be through agroecology — there is no other way,” said a participant at the Bharat Agroecology Fund (BAF) donor convening held in Bengaluru, on 10 and 11 August, 2023. The India Climate Collaborative seed-funded BAF — an India-centric pooled grant fund to scale agroecology practices. As India takes centre stage in global conversations around agroecology, an approach that favours non-chemical, non-extractive farming, this was a timely donor conversation aimed at informing new donors, while exploring synergies and collaboration among others. The space was shared by two champion farmers, CSOs from

across agro-ecosystems, as well as funders and donors. CSOs called it the first ever ‘equalizing setting’!

 

With heightened interest in agroecological approaches such as natural farming through government mission, research institutions, state initiatives, CSO leadership and farmer-led transition, the convening explored several crucial issues. Farmers shared perspectives on transition risks and scaling on the ground, and government representatives identified policy gaps, and these conversations shaped donor perspectives around domestic and international funding, ecosystem services, and fair markets.

Shloka Nath (ICC) moderated a panel discussion with Deepa Gopalakrishnan (EdelGive Foundation), Sameer Shisodia (Rainmatter Foundation), Shirish Sinha (CIFF), and Ravindra Adusumilli (National Coalition for Natural Farming).

Here are a few reflections for funders and donors we’ve carried back with us:

 

1. Ensure investments have compounding and cumulative impact on the ground and are not counterproductive: By speaking to each other more often, donors will be able to map their thematic priorities and regions, and inventorise assets to avoid duplication of work. For example, at the convening, we identified 6 donors working in a common geography who were unaware of each other’s work. By building such relationships, donors can build synergies and ensure investments are compounding and not counterproductive.

 

2. Develop a framework for agroecology that leads to food systems transformation and safeguards against greenwashing: As a CSO stalwart who has been practising agroecology in Telangana for decades put it, “Agroecology for India’s small and marginal farmers should not be only about soil carbon but more about food and nutritional security, food sovereignty, social justice, better incomes, thriving biodiversity, and holistic health.”

 

3. Build innovative and non-conventional partnerships for scale across the agroecology value chain: This is particularly important to support developing business models for BRCs (Bio-input resource centers), seeds, and agro-advisories, digital platforms for cross-learning, as well as for farmer-centric ecosystem markets such as payment for ecosystem services (PES). Without such complementary efforts the transition on-ground might elude us.

 

Recognise the long time horizons required for sustainable change: Land-use work delivers irreversible and impactful results over long time horizons of 8–10 years. We need to design long-term programmes over phases, ones that show short-term outputs (such as developing good quality human capital and fellowships for agroecology) as required by current reporting frameworks, as well as long-term outputs (advocacy with central government for policy shifts such as repurposing fertilizer subsidies).

Evolve from mechanical log frames for reporting and evaluation to ecological change: Donor accounting systems and log frames that follow the mechanics of engineering systems, hinging on pre-determined outputs and outcomes, can be rigid and deterministic, and are not suited to evaluating ecological change. We need to develop and adopt systems that favour solution areas around agroecology. As one participant stated, “Frameworks need to be place-based. We need to measure what people want to measure and not what donor templates want to measure.”

The discussions were also captured live by a SOCRATUS team member Srinivas Mangipudi.

 

 

 


If you are interested in learning more about and funding the Bharat Agroecology Fund, please reach out to ajita@indiaclimatecollaborative.org.

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