Global Alliance for Organic Districts: Scaling Up Organic Agriculture

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of resilient local food systems that promote healthy people, environmental stewardship and a strong local economy. Lobbying governments around the world to adopt and support organic regenerative farming practices is paramount to establishing and maintaining local food systems and access to healthy food. 

During these trying times, Regeneration International (RI) has remained steadfast in its efforts to spread the word about organic regenerative agriculture to local governments, municipalities, cities and regions worldwide.

Our latest endeavor includes participating in the virtual launch of the first Global Alliance for Organic Districts (GAOD), an alliance announced on World Food Day 2020 between Asian Local Governments for Organic Agriculture (ALGOA) and the International Network of Eco Regions (I.N.N.E.R.). 

The goal is for the initiative to create synergy between groups working to promote organic regenerative agriculture across the globe. It’s supported by several founding member organizations including RI, IFOAM Organics International, IFOAM Organics Asia and the League of Organic Agriculture Municipalities and Cities of the Philippines (LOAMCP).

RI’s role in the alliance is to promote and highlight soil health as the most effective tool to curb climate change while providing local communities with nutrient-dense food. 

GAOD and its partners also joined and have voiced their support for the 4Per1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate, a project launched in 2015 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France. 

The initiative provides an international framework on how to demonstrate the role of agriculture and healthy soil in addressing food security and climate change. 

The project recently launched a strategic plan to use carbon-rich soil to stop climate change and end world hunger by 2050, and by 2030 the project aims to: 

“. . . provide a supportive framework and action plan to conceptualize, implement, promote and follow up actions, on soil health and soil carbon, through an enhanced collaboration between stakeholders of the agriculture, forestry and other land use sectors, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

During the virtual online summit, GAOD’s co-president Salvatore Basile expressed his gratitude  and acknowledged the importance of the 4Per1000 Initiative to provide a framework on agricultural climate mitigation for local policymakers worldwide. He said: 

“From this day, we will promote the potential of organic regenerative agriculture to mitigate climate and build resilient local economies to mitigate the growing environmental threats global communities are facing.”

In a video message aired at the online event, Paul Luu, an agronomist specialized in tropical agronomy and executive secretary of the 4Per1000 Initiative, thanked GAOD, ALGOA and I.N.N.E.R. for becoming members of the project.

“This is an important and strong signal to local authorities to encourage and promote carbon sequestration in soils through appropriate agriculture and forestry practices. Agroecology will remain a mere concept if no farmer or forester implement appropriate practices in their fields or forests and if local authorities do not work to create an enabling environment for such practices.” 

Through the work happening on-the-ground at Via Organica, the Mexico-based sister organization of the Organic Consumers Association, RI will provide GAOD’s 4Per1000 task force groups with insights for implementing localized agriculture designed to mitigate climate change. 

The project at Via Organica, based in San Miguel de Allende, provides training to local communities on how to reforest landscapes with the planting of mesquite (which has nitrogen-fixing capacities) and agave, which has tremendous power to grow in extreme dryland conditions while sequestering huge amounts of carbon with its increased biomass. 

The agave then gets converted into a low-cost animal feed for local sheepherders who practice holistic grazing methods. 

A recently published [LINK] video featuring RI’s Latin America Director Ercilia Sahores and Francisco Peyret, the environment director for the city San Miguel de Allende, showcases the innovative agave-mesquite model. 

“We want to implement the goals of the ‘4Per1000’ Initiative, and this means taking action. This year, we are planting 2,000 hectares [of agave and mesquite] and we have 20,000 hectares that we want to convert into productive and regenerate areas,” said Pevret.

The agave planting project and the work being done at Via Organica has inspired officials in the  Guanajuato government to launch their own pilot project. 

In the featured video, Sahores said: 

“Change happens at the local level, and that is from where we need to act and gather our forces. GAOD and the RI network can have a greater influence on public policies, bringing to evidence that the health of food and climate are one.”

 RI’s participation in the ALGOA/GAOD summit contributed to a working group that includes participants from every continent on the globe to discuss the main challenges for scaling up regenerative agriculture.

The working group identifies what the challenges are, how they can be overcome and what GAOD can do to assist in that mission. 

We found that many of these needs are universal, including access to land, fair compensation for farmers to maintain and regenerate ecosystems, consumer awareness, and training on regenerative agriculture practices.

Stay tuned for more updates on the global regeneration front. 

Oliver Gardiner represents Regeneration International in Europe and Asia. 

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Trails of Regeneration: Agroforestry Works With Nature, Uses Trees to Grow Food

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – In our latest “Trails of Regeneration” episode, we explore the roots of agroforestry and how industrial agriculture has pushed aside ancient farming practices that produce healthy food while also caring for the environment. 

The old saying “nature knows best” rings true when it comes to agriculture. Working with nature instead of against it is a mindset that dates back early in human history when farmers relied on ancestral knowledge and traditions to grow food. 

Our new episode, “Agroforestry Today Part 1: A Brief History of Agroforestry,” features Patrick Worms, senior science policy advisor for the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre and president of the European Agroforestry Federation.

Agroforestry is a form of agriculture that incorporates trees and shrubs with food crops. It puts nature first and is one of the most ancient forms of farming. Agroforestry considers the natural landscape and the integration of trees to create a food system with environmental, social and economic benefits. 

Worms has spent decades researching and developing agroforestry systems around the world. He is one of a handful of political and scientific agroforestry lobbyists in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe where he lends his expertise on agricultural policies.

Agroforestry: The art of reading a landscape to enhance agricultural productivity 

In a Zoom interview with Regeneration International, Worms explained how the introduction of modern technology in the agricultural sectorthink pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and farming equipment such as tractors, plows and combineshas in many ways brought thousands of years of agricultural evolution using trees to a standstill. 

The bright side is that as the limitations of industrialized agriculture become more obvious, we are rediscovering the wisdom of ancient agroforestry knowledge, said Worms. 

At the World Agroforestry Centre, Worms is working on new ways to implement agroforestry systems worldwide and in regions faced with food shortages and the impacts of climate change and desertification. 

Trees have proven to be an important resource through human history. Trees provide food and fuel, help fertilize soils and protect farmland from pests, diseases and extreme weather conditions. 

Combining trees, shrubs and grasses with food crops and livestock creates a functional ecosystem that’s efficient at producing a variety of healthy foods. In the featured video, Worms explains that natural landscapes where fruits and grasses grow together almost always have trees in them. 

Farmers learned early on the benefits of growing food alongside trees

Farmers who saved and planted seeds harvest after harvest learned early on that trees are beneficial when grown with certain food crops, said Worms. A good example of this exists in the high plateaus of Papua New Guinea, an island researchers believe is where the banana was first domesticated

Humans first settled in Papua New Guinea about 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. Despite the cool-to-cold climate, agriculture was in full swing in the region’s highlands by 7,000 B.C. The environment, dotted with swamps and rich in flora and fauna, helped make it one of the few areas of original plant domestication in the world. 

Early foods systems such as those in Papua New Guinea are prime examples of ancient agroforestry, said Worms, adding: 

“If you look at those landscapes, they are typical agroforestry landscapes with multi-strata gardens, annuals on the ground, vines climbing along with trees, mid-level shrubs and taller trees with animals and crops in between.”

Agroforestry is practiced throughout ancient human history

Examples of agroforestry systems span the globe throughout human history. From the domestication of the cacao tree in Central and Latin America, to the fig treewhich originated in southwest Asia and is one of the oldest fruits eaten by humansagroforestry systems have produced some of today’s most popular foods.

Early humans that practiced agroforestry developed successful farming systems not because they had scientists in white lab coats, but because they had a constant process of trial and error. The good things were adopted and passed on, and the bad things were abandoned, said Worms, adding: 

“But modernity has swept that away. Knowledge that was painstakingly gained by millennia of our ancestors has completely disappeared.”

Replacing farming practices based on thousands of years of ancestral knowledge with chemical-dependent industrial agriculture has degraded the soil, eliminated biodiversity, stripped food of essential nutrients and enslaved and indebted farmers to major agriculture corporations. 

The good news is that a return to agroforestry and the scaling up of organic and regenerative agriculture systems can reverse the damage caused by industrial agriculture. 

Environmentally focused food and farming systems can improve the social and economic livelihood of farmers, rebuild soil health, promote biodiversity and clean watersheds, produce healthy food and mitigate climate change by drawing down and storing carbon in the soil. 

As Food Tank: The Think Tank For Food wrote so eloquently in October: 

“If we are going to protect our planet and keep healthy food on our table, agroecology is the way forward.”

To learn more about agroforestry and some of today’s best practices, stay tuned for the next episode, “Agroforestry Today P 2: Today’s Good Practices,” in this two-part series.

Oliver Gardiner represents Regeneration International in Europe and Asia. Julie Wilson, communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), contributed to this article.

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David Bronner on the Importance of Regenerative Organic Certification

Our third interview is with David Bronner, Cosmic Engagement Officer at Dr. Bronner’s, winner of the 2019 Outstanding Company Award.

Congratulations on winning a 2019 National Co+op Grocers Climate Collaborative award! What are you most proud of when it comes to your company’s climate work? 

David Bronner: We are looking at every aspect of our soapmaking: ingredients and supply chain; the manufacturing process; efficiency at our facility; packaging and the end cycle of the product. We’re asking ourselves how we’re impacting the climate at every stage of soapmaking, both in terms of sequestering carbon and reducing emissions. We’re proud to be a leader in regenerative organic agriculture and fair trade supply chains.

What were the key factors to success in getting you where you are today on climate? 

DB: Environmental stewardship has always been a company value from the beginning.


Regeneration International, liga filipina de municipios ciudades y provincias orgánicas firman el pacto “Regeneración Filipinas”

BISLIG, PHILIPPINES – Los habitantes de Filipinas saben de primera mano de qué se trata la crisis climática mundial. En 2013, el súper tifón Haiyan, el segundo ciclón tropical más fuerte que golpeó el hemisferio oriental, azotó a la nación insular con vientos de 315 km/hora, dejando 6.300 muertos.

Fue un evento devastador. Pero la nación de islas está luchando.

Inspirados por el alto nivel de autonomía local del país, 200 municipios en Filipinas han dado un extraordinario paso para firmar un acuerdo entre ellos y con Regeneration International (RI) para crear nuevas políticas que reconozcan la salud del suelo como una herramienta poderosa para abordar la crisis climática y recompensar a los agricultores por reducir las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero y capturarlos en su suelo.

Con una meta de implementación a 2022, el acuerdo pretende cubrir 1.2 millones de hectáreas de tierra, casi 3 millones de acres. Como representante de RI, he tenido la suerte de participar en este esfuerzo sin precedentes casi desde el principio.

Los planes para este proyecto culminaron el 14 de junio, en la 11ª Asamblea General de la Liga Filipina de Municipios, Ciudades y Provincias Orgánicas (LOAMCP), donde hice una presentación sobre mitigación del clima de la agricultura y firmé un Memorando de Entendimiento entre LOAMCP y RI, denominado Memorándum “Regeneración Filipinas (RP)”.

Esta historia realmente comenzó en 2017: estando en Londres recibí una llamada de un contacto comercial en Filipinas que estaba trabajando con LOAMCP (en ese momento era LOAMC). Él dijo: “Oliver, creo que tengo algo de interés periodístico para ti”. Luego me pasó a un contacto que me preguntó si podía ayudar a en la cobertura de prensa sobre un evento que estaba ocurriendo durante la feria AGRILINK 2017, una de las mayores ferias agrícolas de Asia.

Asumí que esta persona me iba a asignar a la sección de alimentación industrial de pollos, así que sin mucha esperanza le pregunté: “Bien, genial, ¿a quién representas y cuál es el evento?”

“Mi nombre es Patrick Belisario de la Asociación de Productores y Comercio Orgánico de Filipinas”, dijo. “Trabajamos con un grupo de 200 alcaldes que van a firmar un acuerdo para implementar nuevas leyes en sus distritos electorales que prohibirían el uso de agroquímicos tóxicos y organismos genéticamente modificados (OGM)”.

Me detuve un segundo y dije: “¿En serio? ¿Cómo funcionaría eso?

Luego explicó que los gobiernos locales en Filipinas podían escribir sus propias leyes sin pasar por el gobierno central (un poco como en los Estados Unidos, pero muy diferente de otros países asiáticos).

Y así fue, resultó ser una información interesante y exclusiva.

Tres meses después volé al evento para cubrir la ceremonia de firma, que tuvo lugar en la casa de uno de los senadores más influyentes de Filipinas, la senadora Cynthia Villar.

Fue allí donde me reuní con el Excmo. Rommel C. Arnado, alcalde de la ciudad de Kauswagan Lanao Del Norte en la isla de Mindanao y presidente de la Liga de Municipios y Ciudades Orgánicas (que desde entonces se ha expandido a las Provincias). Durante una entrevista con el alcalde Arnado, fue evidente que la decisión política no era una farsa. El uso de agroquímicos tóxicos y OMG no está permitido, me dijo, y tenemos sanciones vigentes que podrían conducir a la prisión de aquellos que violen las leyes.

La comunidad del alcalde Arnado sufrió durante décadas el flagelo de conflictos armados, lo que lo llevó a implementar un programa de resolución de conflictos e inserción, “From Arms To Farms” (De las Manos a las Granjas), que llevó a los combatientes rebeldes cristianos e islámicos a entregar una parte de su arsenal a cambio de educación sobre alimentación y agricultura orgánica al alcance de todos.

Desde entonces, el alcalde Arnado se ha convertido en un líder mundial en el movimiento orgánico y no vacila en poner en práctica una acción radical para el mayor beneficio de la salud y la riqueza de sus ciudadanos.

Nuestra cobertura del evento fue un éxito: produjimos un video de tres minutos que llegó a más de 1 millón de personas en todo el mundo.

En 2019, regresé a Filipinas para visitar el programa Arms To Farms y producir  “Trails of Regeneration”, una serie continua de RI producida en colaboración con Kiss the Ground.

Durante mi viaje, me reuní con el Director Ejecutivo, agrónomo y agricultor de LAOMCP, Victoriano Tagupa, a quien conocí en 2018 a través de la Federación Internacional de Movimientos de Agricultura Orgánica (IFOAM) Asia en una cumbre de los gobiernos locales asiáticos para la agricultura orgánica.

Victoriano, apodado Vic 1.0, ya que hay otros dos Vics en su familia, es un verdadero defensor del suelo. En su granja en la isla filipina de Mindanao, Tagupa combina la biodinámica y la agricultura natural dentro de un sistema totalmente integrado que utiliza semillas autóctonas, cultivos de cobertura y manejo holístico del ganado. En una entrevista, Tagupa dijo que LOAMCP tenía un plan para convertir 1.2 millones de hectáreas de tierra en producción completamente orgánica para 2022. Tagupa discutió la importancia que esto tendría en la mitigación y la adaptación al cambio climático, y sobre las posibles necesidades y oportunidades para implementar nuevas políticas para capacitar y recompensar a los agricultores.

Un mes después, Tagupa y yo nos volvimos a encontrar, pero esta vez fue en Japón, junto con Andre Leu, director internacional de RI, para “La agricultura es la solución al cambio climático”, un evento organizado por el Ministerio de Agricultura, Silvicultura y Pesca de Japón y la Iniciativa 4 por 1000. Antes del evento, Tagupa, Leu y yo trabajamos juntos en una presentación conjunta para promover los sistemas de intensificación del arroz.

En ese evento, identificamos rápidamente cómo LOAMCP podría ser fundamental para contribuir a las nuevas políticas sobre la mitigación del clima de la agricultura y podría ayudar a inspirar a la comunidad internacional a través de la Iniciativa 4 por 1000.

Las cosas progresaron aún más cuando LOAMCP invitó a RI a hacer una presentación en la próxima Asamblea General de LOAMCP, y Tagupa y yo sugerimos que firmáramos un MDE (memorando de entendimiento) que contendría todos los elementos que habíamos estado debatiendo. Entonces, tomé mi computadora portátil y redacté el Memorando “Regeneración de Filipinas”, que luego se envió a la junta directiva de RI, donde recibió una rápida aprobación.

Luego volé a Bislig City para la Asamblea General de LOAMCP y me reuní con los oficiales de LOAMCP antes del día del evento para presentarles el Memorando “Regeneration Philippines” recién acuñado. El contenido del memorando fue adoptado por toda la asamblea. Muchos miembros de LOAMCP apoyaron que LOAMCP fuera más allá de proteger a la comunidad de los agroquímicos peligrosos y enfrentarse directamente a los peligros del cambio climático.

En la Asamblea General pude señalar los problemas urgentes que enfrentamos con la crisis climática, su amenaza para la civilización humana y la necesidad de actuar rápidamente. Luego mostré cómo al usar la agricultura regenerativa para volver a activar el microbioma del suelo, podemos convertir las granjas convencionales en sumideros de carbono. También hablé de la gran esperanza que los agricultores representan para mitigar el cambio climático a través de la salud del suelo. Además presenté la Iniciativa 4 por 1000 —su propósito, sus antecedentes y la participación de RI—, seguida por el video 4p1000 “Farmers for Climate” (Agricultores para el Clima), y un reporte de nuestro reciente viaje LOAMCP RI a Japón con 4p1000.

Hablé del gran potencial que LOAMCP podría tener para ayudar a dar forma a las nuevas políticas sobre la mitigación del clima de la agricultura mediante el uso del marco 4p1000, y luego los oficiales de LOAMCP y yo presentamos el MDE. Leí en voz alta y pregunté a la audiencia si alguien tenía alguna objeción, comentario o sugerencia. Al no haber objeciones de la audiencia, lanzamos la ceremonia de firma con el presidente de LOAMCP, el alcalde Rommel Arnado.

LOAMCP se ha convertido en una organización poderosa en Filipinas, y este año se ha expandido de las ciudades y municipios de la isla a sus provincias. LOAMCP es una organización importante que reúne a legisladores para proteger la salud humana y el medio ambiente de la avaricia corporativa en el sector agrícola.

Hay una ley de agricultura orgánica en Filipinas que requiere que el 5 por ciento de todas las tierras de cultivo del país sean orgánicas, y muchos en LOAMCP están luchando para llevar esa cifra al 100 por ciento. En un movimiento muy alentador, el Departamento del Interior para Gobiernos Locales (DILG) ha pedido oficialmente a cada municipio de Filipinas que se convierta en miembro de LOAMCP.

Este desarrollo es particularmente interesante, ya que se produjo solo unas semanas después de que el gobierno filipino anunciara subsidios de 614 millones de dólares americanos para fertilizantes sintéticos y pesticidas originarios de Qatar, y el alcalde Librado Navarro de Bislig City abrió su discurso ante la 11ª Asamblea General de LOAMP al declarar que bajo su mandato, Bislig nunca aceptará estos subsidios. Los comentarios de Navarro fueron bien recibidos con un alboroto de vítores y aplausos de la Asamblea General.

Más buenas noticias: RI y LOAMCP están colaborando para crear “Regeneration Philippines”, una rama dentro de LOAMCP diseñada para ayudar a dirigir los esfuerzos de LOAMCP hacia los conceptos y la implementación del desarrollo agrícola regenerativo. La próxima reunión general de LOAMCP será en noviembre de 2019 en Cebú, Filipinas. RI planea en esa reunión lanzar oficialmente Regeneration Philippines y establecer una oficina de Regeneration Philippines junto con las de LOAMCP e IFOAM Asia.

Con la crisis climática sobre Filipinas, el país está tomando medidas audaces para enfrentar la crisis. Parece que estos esfuerzos lograrán forjar un consenso nacional sobre la agricultura regenerativa como un factor clave en la mitigación del clima.

Oliver Gardiner representa a Regeneration International en Europa y Asia. Para mantenerse al día con las noticias y los eventos, suscríbase aquí para recibir el boletín de Regeneration International.

Regenerative Organics: Drawing a Line in the Soil

Author: Rose Marcario | Published on: December 8, 2016

In recent years, we’ve seen a boom in production and sales of organic foods worldwide. The global organic food market is expected to grow by 16 percent between 2015 and 2020, a faster rate than conventionally-grown foods.

This seems like good news—but in truth, organic farming makes up just a tiny fraction of the global agriculture system controlled by a few giant corporations generating enormous profits. And it’s about to get worse: If current deals in the works make it past European and U.S. regulators, three companies—Bayer, DowDupont and ChemChina—will own two-thirds of the world’s seeds and pesticides.

This unfortunate reality threatens to hold us hostage for decades as conventional agriculture continues to ravage our planet: gobbling up immense fossil fuels for production and shipping, flooding the earth with toxic synthetic pesticides and deadening our soil’s biodiversity with GMO seeds (along with the taste of our food). Conventional agriculture also generates a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions now baking our atmosphere.

And food is just part of the picture. Consider cotton, a fiber used to make a large majority of our clothing globally: just one percent is grown organically. That figure has stayed mostly stagnant since at least 1996, the year Patagonia started sourcing 100 percent organic cotton. It’s especially appalling considering 16 percent of all pesticides used worldwide are used to grow conventional cotton—exposure to which has been linked to higher rates of cancer and other diseases. Conventional GMO farming practices also reduce soil fertility and biodiversity, require more water and large amounts of herbicides, alter the nutritional content of our food, and result in toxic runoff that pollutes our rivers, lakes and oceans.

Thankfully, the status quo isn’t our only option. Regenerative organic agriculture includes any agricultural practice that increases soil organic matter from baseline levels over time, provides long-term economic stability for farmers and ranchers, and creates resilient ecosystems and communities. Put simply, this approach presents an opportunity to reclaim our farming system on behalf of the planet and human health—while fulfilling the obvious need to feed and clothe billions of people around the world. We can produce what we need and revitalize soil at the same time, thereby sequestering carbon currently polluting the atmosphere and warming our planet.

The good news: a small but growing list of organizations with good intentions have embraced regenerative organics in recent years. In particular, this approach (and terminology) has been championed by groups like the Rodale Institute and Regeneration International, and as a result, some businesses have begun taking serious interest. At Patagonia, our interest and knowledge has grown over many years: We began rebuilding our natural fiber supply chains to include organic practices 25 years ago, starting with cotton; more recently, we’ve been prioritizing regenerative practices for apparel and with our food business, Patagonia Provisions.