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Empowering farmers to become active participants in sustainable rice production processes

Manila, Philippines (17 October 2023) — Private sector representatives attending the 6th International Rice Conference (IRC 2023)  discussed how climate financing initiatives supported by Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) methodologies can help farmers access financial support to become active participants in sustainable rice production processes.

In line with the theme of IRC 2023, Gene to Globe, Bill Salas, Chief Strategy Officer at Regrow Ag, cited MRV as a prime example of technology that influences changes in the rice industry from gene to satellites.

Culture and varying agronomic conditions heavily affect data at the farm level, according to Mr. Salas. In addition, data from smallholder farmers can be really specific which means that constantly varying conditions can significantly change. It is important that MRVs are cognizant of these uncertainties and that they be flexible to accommodate them so that they can continue to evolve and make the impact of farmer-provided data more understandable to farmers themselves.

Regrow Ag has been supporting farmers’ decision-making at field level through AgResults where they use satellite equipment and capture radars to collect high-quality data that then eliminates uncertainties in MRV caused by varying rice landscapes.

“Farmers are at the center of these initiatives,” said Salas. “Impacts of sustainable practices can be exciting in theory but in reality, it is important that farmers understand their climate impact. This is so they are more encouraged to adopt sustainable agricultural techniques."

Rice cultivation is one of the biggest sources of methane gas in the agriculture sector. However, it also has the highest mitigation potential which makes it a promising crop for reducing GHG emissions.

“If you want to talk about climate impact you need good quality data to support your claims,” said AgriG8 CEO David Chen. “MRV provides the framework that can help connect farmers with researchers and the private sector who can in turn provide financial support services to producers.”

However, there are still barriers to green financing. Mr. Chen said that loan structures do not always have farmers as their number one client. Even if they are at the top of their list, farmers are then offered high-interest loans as they are considered high-risk clients.

“With MRV, farmers can collect and curate their farm data which can be used as evidence of their climate impact,” said Mr. Chen. “This allows them to access more financial support mechanisms through carbon credit schemes and loans with lowered interest rates.”

Leading the promotion of MRVs is a shared responsibility by the public and private sectors, according to Deviah Aiama, a senior manager at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

“Investors can help provide smallholder farmers the technology while government policies can help create nationally or internationally-recognized standards such as the National Determined Contributions,” Mr. Aiama said. “National Determined Contributions are baselines of what each country can contribute in improving current climate conditions. Together, they can help accelerate scaling MRV technologies.”

“We have to start somewhere, we have to work now, and we have to work together,” said IRRI Climate Change Specialist Katie Nelson who was the session’s moderator. “To scale further, there has to be pilots and these can only be initiated when there are broad partnerships among farmers, financial institutions, and governments.”

How evolving MRV technology can increase scalability and improve investment outcomes in sustainable rice production plenary was sponsored by Regrow Ag.