Two billion people, who account for two-thirds of the world’s poor, rely on smallholder agriculture and agroforestry to sustain their livelihoods. Climate change is introducing new existential risks and has heightened the already-high vulnerability of rural farming families to shocks. But rural communities are not just the most at risk; they are critical, powerful partners for ecosystem preservation and climate change mitigation.
Many smallholder farmers and local communities already utilize planet-friendly, low-carbon or carbon-negative practices that store carbon, reduce emissions, protect biodiversity, and preserve ecosystems. For agricultural communities to participate in building climate resilience and a sustainable future, small farmers must secure the rights and downstream economic benefits associated with the entire set of assets they manage.
Farmers and local communities must be able to manage their land like an investment portfolio and reap returns corresponding to the total amount of value they create. With this in mind, the Climate Action for Smallholders (CASH) Coalition was founded in early 2023, and comprises twelve mission-driven organizations with deep and longstanding relationships in the smallholder agricultural, indigenous, and agroforestry communities of the Global South with a shared mission to make climate action and regenerative agriculture are profitable for smallholders.
Debbie Aung Din is Co-founder of Proximity Designs, a social business delivering affordable and innovative products for smallholder farms. Proximity designs and delivers innovative and profitable low-carbon farming products and services that help farmers restore fragile soils, protect crops from pest and disease, save irrigation water and grow food in more productive and sustainable ways. Since 2004, Proximity’s products and services have spanned over 10,000 villages in Myanmar, enabling over 5 million people to grow their farm enterprises and afford food, healthcare and education for their families. Aung Din has engaged in design and economic research in Myanmar for over two decades. She lived and worked in Mississippi, Cambodia and Indonesia, and holds a MA from Harvard University in public policy and development economics. She received social entrepreneurship awards from the Schwab Foundation (World Economic Forum) and the Skoll Foundation.
Willy Foote is founder and CEO of Root Capital, a nonprofit that offers farmers around the world a path to prosperity by investing in the agricultural businesses that serve as engines of impact in their communities. Root Capital provides these businesses with the capital, training, and access to markets they need in order to grow, thrive, and create opportunities for thousands of farmers at a time. Since its founding in 1999, Root Capital has provided more than $1.7 billion in loans to 770 agricultural businesses in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Together, these businesses have bought and marketed crops for 2.4 million smallholder farmers, reaching over 10 million people in rural communities.
Michael Jenkins is the founding President and CEO of Forest Trends, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC. Forest Trends’ mission is to expand the value of forests to society; to promote sustainable forest management and conservation by creating and capturing market values for ecosystem services; to support innovative projects and companies that are developing these markets; and to enhance the livelihoods of local communities living in and around those forests.
Chris Jochnick is a global land rights expert and social entrepreneur with decades of experience in international development. Chris joined Landesa as CEO in August 2015 after leading Oxfam America’s work on corporate engagement including shareholder engagement, value chain assessments, and collaborative advocacy initiatives, such as the successful “Behind the Brands” campaign. Jochnick is the co-founder and former director of two pioneering non-profit organizations: Center for Economic and Social Rights and the Ecuador-based Centros De Derechos Economicos y Sociales.
Jack Kimani is the founding CEO of the Climate Action Platform for Africa (CAP-A), a novel platform of initiatives focusing on climate action opportunities as drivers of economic growth in Africa. He has over 20 years of corporate finance and development experience working across Sub-Saharan Africa, North America and South-East Asia, for major multinational organizations. Most recently, he served as the Senior Program Director for the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) where he led and provided project management oversight across CHAI’s Universal Health Coverage programs and climate initiatives.
Paul Van Zyl is the co-Founder of The Conduit and Chief Creative Officer. Paul is a winner of the prestigious Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He served as the Executive Secretary of South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission and co-founded the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), an international human rights organisation based in New York City.