Meet our COP28 cohort: Shining a light on food systems leadership

In the face of climate breakdown, smallholder farmers, fishers, Indigenous Peoples and communities from climate-vulnerable regions bear testament to the devastating, wide-reaching consequences of inaction. The world should be compelled to listen to those on the frontlines of this crisis. 

As COP28, the United Nations annual climate convention commences this week in Dubai, food and agriculture are finally in focus as a driver of climate change. This marks a breakthrough recognition of our food systems’ role in fuelling one-third of greenhouse gas emissions and 15% of global fossil fuel consumption. 

The inclusion of leaders on the frontline of climate breakdown in the COP is more important than ever. There are many persistent barriers to participation at COP, particularly for civil society and underrepresented communities from the Global South. This is why, for the second year running, the Global Alliance is sponsoring a cohort of food system representatives from around the world to participate in these vital conversations at COP28.

With food systems also imminently at risk from climate change, it is essential that decision-makers at COP28 heed the real-world solutions from those on the frontlines who witness the effects of extreme weather on food and farming daily. 

This delegation consists of 42 frontline voices, including farmers, fishers, grassroots activists and NGO leaders from around the world; from smallholder farmers in Africa to Indigenous food activists from North America, NGO leaders in South America to farming leaders from India – voices which are severely underrepresented on the international stage. Each of these food systems delegates will journey to Dubai with their own personal stories of devastation, hope, innovation and adaptation to tell. 

Allow us to introduce you to some of them:

Monicah Yator – Kenya, Eastern Africa

Monicah is a passionate human rights defender, feminist, and activist from the Indigenous Tugen pastoralist community. As a trainer of agroecology, she supports her community in the transition to agropastoralism to foster resilience to climate change. Monica is also the founder of the Indigenous Women and Girls Initiative, a community-based organization advocating for the rights of women and girls in Baringo, Kenya and beyond.

Chef Sean Sherman – USA, North America

Born in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, Sean is Oglala Lakota and has dedicated his career to reviving and celebrating Indigenous food traditions. He promotes sustainable and culturally significant Indigenous ingredients – including wild game, foraged plants and heirloom seeds – at his James Beard award-winning restaurant Owamni. Sean is also the founder of the non-profit North American Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS), author of The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, and one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

Kaid Yussef Madhdi – Algeria, Northern Africa

An expert in banking and information systems, Kaid is the founder of the ‘green banking’ concept in Algeria, where he represents Algerian civil society at the Global Environmental Fund. Kaid has also participated in several programs in innovation, circular economy, sustainable water management and youth campaigning, and is a founding member and secretary general of the Climate Action Network Arab World

Ma Estrella Penunia Banzuela – Philippines, South Asia

As secretary general of the Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA), Estrella supports, promotes and represents 13 million small-scale men, women, and youth farmers across 16 countries. AFA is a regional alliance of 22 national farmers’ organizations, representing a diversity of systems from crops, livestock, herding and pastoralism, to forestry and fisheries. Estrella and her organization promote farmers’ rights, strengthen farmer cooperatives and their enterprises, and encourage female and youth empowerment in agriculture.

Elujulo Opeyemi – Nigeria, Western Africa

Elujulo is the founder of Youth in Agroecology and Restoration Network (YARN), an inspirational movement of African youths working with rural communities to raise awareness of agroecology and build capacity for agrifood systems transformation. He is also the co-chair of the World Food Forum Youth Policy Board, where he ensures youth perspectives are represented in the Forum’s work, and co-executive director at Care About Climate, USA.  


These food system leaders are on the frontline of climate breakdown, and we have supported them to attend COP28 to tell their story; one that needs to be heard more than ever.

Having a seat at the biggest annual global gathering on climate change is a vital opportunity for civil society and food systems actors to share knowledge, connect with decision-makers and hold them to account, all while influencing the agenda for meaningful climate action. 

Among them, these frontline food and farming experts hold a wealth of evidence-based innovative solutions to mitigate and adapt to a warming planet. Climate decision-makers must be accountable to communities on the ground, who have long fought for resilience while global leaders deliberate and delay action. 

Food systems transformation is only possible with the inclusion of all key players, from the global to the local, the macro to the micro. We hope that this COP28 cohort of incredible leaders will inspire greater inclusion of diverse voices at future COPs, to secure a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable world for all.

Read more about our COP28 Cohort here

The representatives are available for interviews — in-depth or fast-paced — panel events and content creation providing firsthand experiences of climate impact and pathways to transformative change. To learn more about our Frontline Food and Farming Experts and explore their areas of expertise, visit our Guide to Frontline Food and Farming Experts.

Do not hesitate to contact the Global Alliance or Greenhouse Communications if one of our representatives can provide first-person experience of the impacts of climate change, the solutions they can offer and the urgent support that they need. For interviews and speaker requests, contact:

– Ends
Vivian Maduekeh
Program Coordinator: Climate and Health