The world’s most important challenges—poverty, food security and climate change—intersect at smallholder farms around the world. Smallholders produce 70% of the world’s food, yet live trapped in poverty, and threatened by climate change. Agriculture represents a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, while climate change threatens global food production. Sistema.bio is a proven suite of technology, training and financing that creates infrastructure and capacity on farms to convert waste into renewable energy and fertilizer. This allows farmers to improve the economic and health conditions of their households, while increasing the productivity and sustainability of their farms. Farmers reduce the GHG profile of our food systems, while also locking carbon into the soil. We will leverage McArthur funding with another 500 million in farmer payments, carbon funding and private investment to reach 10 million farms and create a pathway to serve over 100 million farms with climate-smart technology.
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Enrique is a small dairy farmer in Mexico that we met almost 12 years ago. His father had to immigrate to the US to economically support their family, and his mother was perpetually sick from cooking in a smoky kitchen. The uncertainty of rains in their native Puebla due to climate change impacted their harvests, leaving the family worried about what to eat. The costs of energy and agricultural inputs never let them get ahead. They had little access to technology, training or fair financing products that could change this story. Enrique and his four sisters spent their time and effort struggling on the farm, missing opportunities for education. One in three people live on 500 million small farms around the world in a similar situation to Enrique’s. The people that grow the majority of the world’s food are most likely to go hungry. Those that have emitted the least carbon are the those most exposed to climate change. Farmers—rich in land, cultural, and traditional knowledge—represent 80% of the global poor. Smallholder farmers are at the frontline of the global challenges of food security, climate change and poverty. Increasingly these farmers are female, and they represent the majority of the world’s remaining traditional indigenous populations. Together, the combination of food security, climate change and poverty drive many other challenges, including refugees, security and environmental degradation. How the world responds to these challenges at farms like Enrique’s will determine whether we address them at all for future generations.
The Sistema.bio solution finances on-farm infrastructure and capacity building to help smallholder farmers grow more food, produce less GHG emissions, and increase their net income. This is a powerful answer to the challenges of food security, climate change and poverty that today can be scaled and replicated to create significant short-term impact. Our core technology converts organic waste into a reliable, modern source of clean energy and fertilizer, while recycling nutrients and carbon back into the soil. By providing clean energy and fertilizer on Enrique’s farm, his mother’s kitchen was converted to clean burning biogas and the improved crop yields and cost savings allowed his father to come home. This infrastructure platform allows farms like Enrique’s to then add a series of clean energy appliances, including stoves, engines, and water pumps. Adding water tanks, irrigation systems and other farm equipment, farmers can expand and improve existing agricultural activities. Each farm receives direct evaluations, training, and on-going service and support. The entire package is financed with a flexible and inclusive package aligned with the farmers’ ability to pay. The entire process is managed on an advanced data collection system through smart phones and an AI driven database that allows us to learn, track and support farmers over the long term. Over the five-year project period we will use a team of local promoters and technicians, with an emphasis on female leadership and collaboration with traditional indigenous leadership, to reach over one million farmers in 10 countries, providing seeds for future growth.