By Maria Virginia Solis Wahinsh, Argentinian No-Tiller

As world leaders assemble in Egypt for their annual summit on climate change, they’ll hear from farmers for the second time.

The gathering is called COP27, which is an abbreviation for the 27th meeting of the UN Climate Change Conference. The event seeks to develop policies for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, and COP27 offers an important opportunity for farmers to bring their voice and share their actions on mitigation of climate change as they grow food for a planet of 8 billion people.

All too often, farmers actions on climate mitigation are not known by several actors, many times they are even misunderstood as the source of the environmental crisis. The reality is that we’re a part of the solution to climate change —and it’s important the world’s farmers, in all their diversity, have full representation at these international events.

Inclusion is the best way to create and strengthen the partnerships required to tackle our planet’s biggest challenges.

For the first quarter-century of these conferences, however, farmers like me did not have an official place at the table and in the programming. Speakers talked about agriculture, but audiences never heard from farmers. Agriculture simply didn’t have a voice.

This changed last year at COP26 in Scotland. Members of the Global Farmer Network and other food producers had a chance to join the formal proceedings. This allowed Mateusz Ciasnocha of Poland, for example, to describe how he has adopted climate-friendly and regenerative practices on his farm, where he grows high-quality hay.

I also participated in COP26 as part of the Christian Climate Observers Program. I’m a no-tiller in Argentina, and CCOP allows me to pursue my dual vocation as a producer of food on our family farm as well as a bridge-builder who connects young farmers and organizations that seek a more sustainable world.

Three years ago, I responded to the call of Pope Francis to join the Economy of Francesco, which invites young entrepreneurs like me to join with academics, changemakers and others to bring new life and soul to the economy. Together with other youth, we founded the Farm of Francesco, which strives to build a better food system and deliver more justice in agriculture on demonstration farms in Africa and South America. Since last year, I have also joined an initiative from the Vatican which is called Laudato Si Action Platform, where my work focuses on inviting farms and businesses to join the platform towards achieving 7 Laudato Si goals on a 7-year journey.

At COP26, I had the chance to discuss these activities with people from around the world. I spoke at meetings on energy management, finances, and indigenous communities. We also had a chance to attend a trailer for “The Letter,” a documentary that came out last month.

It describes the Pope’s encyclical letter on our current social and environmental crisis and tells the stories of four people from the Amazon, India, Senegal and Hawaii. COP26 provided an incredible opportunity to network with others in informal settings and share what is lived with others via social media and other platforms.

Farmers do have a voice in these proceedings. It doesn’t have to be a loud voice, but it needs to be a confident and persistent voice that others hear and heed. It needs to be listened to.

I’m pleased that the integration of farmers at COP26 will continue at this year’s COP27 in Egypt, which will include several food pavilions that allow producers to explain how they grow the food that everybody needs, as well as what they’re doing to mitigate the effects of climate change. The Farm of Francesco will spread its ideas and supporting farmer representations at the Future Economy Forum, which took place earlier and will hold several side events during COP27.

Despite our involvement, participating in COP 27 in Egypt had a lot of challenges, including the high financial cost that made participation in-person less accessible for many of us traveling from different countries.

I hope this year’s participants will have face-to-face encounters with farmers from different parts of the world and learn about their experiences, challenges and actions. Solving climate change means having conversations with people who are in daily contact with the land and its soil, making sure there is food for all. I’ll be following what happens in Egypt and looking for opportunities to advance the objectives of climate-smart agriculture from Argentina.

Next year, COP28 will meet in the United Arab Emirates. My plan is to attend, but first to keep being part of the path from COP27 to COP28, understanding that it is not only about COP but about the processes we build together and after it. The process I would love to see is one where we build common action tracks, with the active representation of farmers, the private sector, civil society, and the public sector taking action together.

The job of farmers is to put food on the table. It’s good to see that farmers now have a place at the table of COP and other processes too.

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