Reflecting on one year since our “Mobilizing Money and Movements” report
It’s been one year since the Global Alliance and the Transformational Investing in Food Systems Initiative (TIFS) published Mobilizing Money and Movements: Creative Finance for Food Systems Transformation.
Creating this report was a multi-year journey. We started with a list of more than 100 food-focused initiatives from around the world, before honing in on six, one each in Denmark, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United States, and Zambia.
Through our work with TIFS and Integrated Capital Investing, we regularly hear from funders, investors, and food systems actors who want concrete examples of how to create sustainable, just, and community-centred food systems. These six case studies offer a compelling look at what it takes to envision and finance the transition toward an agroecological future. And they show how funders and investors can meaningfully contribute.
How this report has influenced our approach
Building momentum and evidence for creative and equitable financing strategies is an ongoing effort. When it comes to our work in this space, these stories have influenced how we talk about and advise investing in regenerative or agroecological approaches in four noteworthy ways.
First, they crystallized the importance of grassroots decision-making and leadership in local food economies. Each initiative responds to what communities themselves identified as priorities. Amplifying the bottom-up approach of these enterprises is particularly urgent in the lead-up to the COP28 climate conference. Already we are seeing the proliferation of private finance and big business making lofty commitments in the regenerative food systems space. Let’s not be distracted by these polished messages and top-down “solutions,” and instead support food systems initiatives that pursue business strategies grounded in the lived experience and participation of local community members.
Second, the initiatives demonstrated the ability to organize finance in such a way as to build community wealth. Prior to this report, we’d often reference frameworks like True Cost Accounting when talking about the social, environmental, and economic impacts of food systems initiatives. The stories in this report offer tangible examples of the financial and non-financial wealth that can be generated and circulated at a community level to support self-sufficiency and build local value in non-extractive ways. Among other things, they strengthen the connection between local food producers and consumers prioritizing health and well-being.
Third, the six initiatives further affirmed to us that value-aligned blended finance is essential to creating business models that center healthy food, local economy, and community building. Each enterprise leveraged a combination of public, private, commercial, and NGO resources, alongside local assets and movements. Strategically applying these blended forms of finance is a vital ingredient for transformation. It’s something we look for and advise towards even more now when consulting with food focused initiatives.
Finally, this report gave us a new standard by which to assess the viability and sustainability of emerging food enterprises. In the analysis for this report, we identified several shared characteristics and mutual values for building food systems enterprises. These patterns have become helpful criteria we can use to “intuition check” which new food initiatives may succeed based on how they hold up to the principles that guided these six enterprises.
Continued partnership to inspire new ways of working
To amplify these unique investment strategies and initiatives, we have continued to highlight or connect their leaders through different platforms:
- Ahilan Kadirgamar from the Northern Co-operative Development Bank in Sri Lanka was featured in a TIFS webinar in December 2022. Attended by the TIFS community, the event emphasized how NCDB used international grants to build wealth locally. We also worked with NCDB to mobilize various grants in response to Sri Lanka’s economic crises.
- Sylvia Banda, founder of Sylva Foods in Zambia, delivered a keynote address at the 2022 Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) convening in Uganda. Her remarks reinforced AFSA’s ask at pre-COP27 meetings, urging negotiators to consider how Africa’s agroecology movement could use grants and investments to increase its climate change mitigation potential.
- Natalie Reitman-White from Organically Grown Company was featured on a panel at SOCAP organized by TIFS, addressing the impact investment community about the U.S. company’s evolution to adopt a social purpose trust model.
- Educe Cooperativa in Mexico hosted a well-attended site visit for the International Funders for Indigenous Peoples, and shared on a panel how its beekeeping operations bring positive co-benefits for local livelihoods, gender equality, biodiversity, and climate action.
We’ve also seen how the approaches taken by these initiatives can be adapted and applied in other parts of the world. Rootical startup studio in Uganda, for instance, is a new initiative that supports purpose-driven entrepreneurs to build regenerative agri-food companies. Inspired in part by the social purpose trust model of OGC, Rootical baked social purpose trust legal structures into its founding principles. Also inspired by the research in the report, the Agroecology Accelerator and Fund, Neycha, is launching the first blended capital fund focused on agroecology in Uganda and Kenya to grow the sector of agroecological businesses that serve local producers and consumers.
The conversation around creative financing for food systems transformation is gradually gaining traction. This parallels the growing chorus of support for agroecology and a more mainstream recognition of how it responds in a holistic manner to the multiple crises the world faces.
The stories in this report are even more relevant today than they were a year ago. Now is the time for the Global Alliance and its partners to more loudly champion these stories, sharing widely the evidence of how food enterprises can be health and nutrition-focused, community-led, and operate in such a way that grows the pie for everyone.
Jennifer Astone, Principal, Integrated Capital Investing
Rex Raimond, Director, Transformational Investing in Food Systems Initiative
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