Urged by the younger generation to act for the climate, former youth movement friends reunite after several years apart to launch an ambitious regenerative agriculture transition project.
Farming for Climate traces its roots to the 2018 Youth for Climate strikes, when young people around the world took to the streets to protest against climate change and demand urgent action. Challenged by their own kids, Farming for Climate’s founders decided that they needed to concretely show their commitment to combatting climate change. Drawing on knowledge from their respective fields of work, the founders began to formulate an answer to their kids’ call for action: reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The result is the creation of Farming for Climate, an association supporting farmers in Belgium who are ready to switch their practices towards regenerative agriculture. Indeed, regenerative agriculture is one of the most effective ways to act for the climate, the term describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity – resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.
Supporting farmers to change
The transition from conventional intensive farming towards regenerative agriculture is already happening in Europe, but only a small part of the agriculture and at a relatively slow pace. Farming for Climate aims to accelerate this transition by supporting older and younger generations of farmers in Belgium to make the change.
Farmers wanting to transition face three main challenges: first, the complexity of the change requiring technical knowledge; second, the need for investment (e.g. lighter equipment); and third, a potential reduction of yield in the first years following the transition. Farming for Climate directly tackles these challenges via two services: access to financial support and tailored advice if needed. The association connects farmers with companies and individuals keen to show their commitment to tackling climate change by investing in sustainable projects in their local area. Farmers enrolled in the program receive yearly financial support during five years. This amount allows them to address the risk and short-term challenges of transitioning without jeopardizing their business model. The process is as transparent as possible. Seventy percent of Farming for Climate’s funds go directly to the farmers while the remaining 30% is used for creating a knowledge database about regenerative agricultural practices, communication material about the projects, and ensuring the operational follow-up. Alongside this, Farming for Climate, together with its partner network, can provide independent and tailored advice to farmers according to their specific needs and capacities. The focus is on the unique features of each project rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
Human-scale partnerships and projects
Farming for Climate is creating a Belgian ecosystem of private companies, local authorities, independent advisors, citizens, and farmers who work together to accelerate the regenerative transition. The association is currently made up of eleven passionate volunteers and one fulltime employee, Johan Lambrechts, former sustainability coordinator at Lidl Belgium.
“I really enjoyed working at Lidl, where I was implementing an ambitious sustainability strategy around climate, packaging, food waste, sustainable products, … including working on the sustainability throughout the supply chain. However, I wanted to get closer to the impact on the ground, to connect my background in economics and ecology even more, and focus on those topics that could make the biggest difference for the environment. I soon realized that the transition towards regenerative agriculture was the way I wanted to go. I began looking for opportunities and encountered Farming for Climate.”
“Our projects are human-scale. Of course, we are guided by a desire to protect and preserve the environment, but also by the passion and motivation of farmers. These aren’t just transition projects; they are about changing mindsets, changing the system. It is empowering. Because seeing and hearing the successes and experiences of farmers undergoing transition is the best way to inspire other farmers to follow.”
From volunteering to startup
Two years after its creation, Farming for Climate wants to scale up its organization and impact, undergoing its own transition from an association to a startup. Hiring Johan was the first step. Taking part in the Impact Programme the second. Johan is full of expectations for the Impact Programme, especially the scale-up part. “By 2030, Farming for Climate’s ambition is to have 1000 hectares of agricultural land transitioned per month, which corresponds with more than 100.000 hectares transitioned, 300.000 tons sequestered carbon and more than 1600 transitioned farms. Now is the right moment to pivot and prepare the ground for this. I think in a year’s time, we will look back and see that it was the beginning of an exponential growth curve.”
Find out more about Farming For Climate here.