Cultivating Collective Action

CASH Coalition Annual Report 2023

The CASH Coalition is one year old. We work to make regenerative agriculture and climate action profitable for smallholder farmers in the Global South. Since our inception at the Skoll World Forum in 2023, we have embarked on a process of learning and doing to realize this mission. We are pleased to present an overview of key activities in this document. Do not hesitate to contact us to discuss our work further.

We work to make regenerative agriculture and climate action profitable for smallholder farmers and local communities in the Global South.

The Coalition works to accelerate the smallholder transition to regenerative agriculture and sustainable land management to enhance resilience and livelihoods while advancing local ecosystem restoration and climate change mitigation. We focus on creating enabling conditions that are challenging for individual organizations to address in isolation and impossible for farmers to shift. We support innovative and trusted organizations that serve farmers across diverse contexts and who work to create value for people (families), nature (local ecosystems, soil, biodiversity), and climate (carbon removal, emissions reduction).

We implement our work aligned with four pillars: 

CASH identifies and shares knowledge and best practices regarding existing technologies, practices, financing arrangements, incentive structures, behavior change and adoption, costs and benefits, and scaling strategies to accelerate a smallholder regenerative transition. We are actively developing a repository of regenerative content focused on smallholder agriculture to i) accelerate awareness and uptake across the Coalition; ii) support members, the Coalition, and eventually the field-at-large to leverage generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools as a strategy to scale smallholder farmer access to quality, locally relevant, regenerative advice.

We provide technical assistance, information, and education to our members and local partners to amplify the voices of smallholder farmers and increase their ability to derive benefits from climate finance and PES. 

We expand existing avenues for participation, create new entry points to climate financing arrangements, and transform climate finance by – advocating for reforms to existing carbon markets, standards, and relevant regulatory instruments to ensure that markets and instruments work for smallholders and recognize and value smallholder nature-based solutions and ecosystem services. We identify ways for smallholders to tap into non-carbon climate finance.  We are developing a portfolio of projects to advance these objectives, identify and overcome practical barriers inhibiting smallholder projects from accessing carbon and other climate finance, and inform learning and advocacy to promote systems change.

We catalyze the development and execution of ground-up research to build business models and use cases demonstrating the viability of smallholder regenerative and climate actions. We leverage this learning to inform advocacy, project development, and further research.

We have welcomed new members and strategic partners to the broader coalition throughout the year. Foundational discussions were held between Forest Trends, Root Capital, One Acre Fund, Landesa, Proximity Designs, Babban Gona, My Agro, and COMACO in the months before the 2023 Skoll World Forum. By the time we formally launched in Oxford, we had been joined by, CAP-A, Acceso, and Mafisa. Following our launch, we added Encourage Capital as a strategic partner. Encourage Capital has enriched our understanding of carbon markets and climate finance, brokered new conversations, and helped us move ideas into practice. At our in-person meeting in London last June, we added Precision Development (PxD) as an additional strategic partner, bolstering our research capabilities and reach in Asia. We also welcomed Digital Green and SEKEM, who bring new perspectives, rich experience, and tools to assist smallholders navigate the polycrisis. At the same time, due to capacity constraints given their massive scale-up, MyAgro decided to temporarily step back from active collaboration with CASH. 

We are now a coalition of thirteen members and two strategic partners. We are not actively looking to expand our membership as we refine our strategy and consolidate our programming. Still, we may add a limited number of strong organizations that complement the current membership. We may also consider an affiliate model.

In biannual in-person member meetings, we determine priority actions and pursue them through working groups. Our working groups comprise member representatives augmented by third-party experts and supported by a small central staff.

A Learning Portfolio of Actions

Giving Farmers Voice

When representatives of CASH member organizations met in person in June 2023, there was common concern about a widely held perception of farmers as passive victims of the North’s development to be pushed further into poverty by climate change. In this worldview, smallholders and local communities lack the agency and resources to take action, except as climate refugees. We believe this narrative is inaccurate and disempowering, perpetuating a worldview in which smallholder farmers and forest communities are grateful beneficiaries of Northern actions.

Working with farmers at the frontline of climate change, our members intuited a different reality: despite often trying conditions, farmers have significant local knowledge and agency. Smallholders know how they are being impacted by climate change and want to act to arrest its impacts. 

To find out what farmers thought, we spoke to over 1,600 farmers in ten countries where our members work. We published the findings of our farmer survey as a Farmer Voice Report.

Key Findings:

  • Almost nine in ten farmers (87%) surveyed reported concern about environmental changes, and more than half (56%) reported significant concern.
  • Among farmers surveyed, 83% reported experiencing at least one extreme weather event on their farm in the last five years and two-thirds in the past year.
  • Farmers recognize changes in the quality of their resource endowment: 54% reported diminishing soil quality, and 57% reported observing fewer beneficial insects and earthworms.
  • Over seven in ten farmers (72%) surveyed think they have an important role to play in solving climate change and addressing its impacts.
  • Eighty-four percent of farmers surveyed answered affirmatively they were aware of regenerative practices, and of these, 87% indicated already activating this knowledge; 98% indicated their willingness to use additional practices to contribute to mitigation efforts.

The findings of our Farmer Voice Report center smallholder farmers in the Global South as active partners in efforts to address the impacts of a changing climate.

The report highlights four areas where support to communities can catalyze climate solutions:

  • Enhanced knowledge and training to improve soil preservation and crop resilience.
  • Farmers recognize that addressing climate change individually is less effective, favoring communal practices for better results and shared resource preservation.
  • Farmers recognize the importance of their agency for addressing climate change but stress the need for external support to finance critical infrastructure like irrigation and storage systems.
  • Improved market access and pricing are crucial for investing in climate-resilient inputs and technologies, increasing farmer income, and enabling investments in training, technology, and labor by farmers and communities.

Limiting global warming requires urgent action, and it is achievable. To roll back the impacts of anthropogenic climate change and sustainably address poverty, we cannot afford to forego the agency, voice, and actions of millions of farming families whose livelihoods depend on ecosystems and the environment. For climate solutions to work, we must partner with and benefit smallholder communities in the Global South. 

Our Farmer Voice Survey supports a new message and reinforces the value of the mission of the CASH Coalition: 

Smallholder farmers and forest communities are intimately connected to their lands. They are primary caretakers of the earth’s precious soil, water, and forest resources. Smallholder farmers are concerned about climate change and are willing and ready to take action. 

These communities must play a vital role in mitigating climate change and should be rewarded for their actions. We work to make regenerative agriculture and climate action profitable for smallholder farmers and local communities in the Global South.

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Distilling our Carbon Markets Work

In the second half of 2023, we audited members’ programming to identify shovel-ready and near-ready projects we could bundle into a portfolio to take to the voluntary carbon market (VCM). The audit was enlightening on many levels: the primary takeaway was that – despite our intuition – there was a dearth of low-hanging fruit out there, and we may need to take a few steps back before realizing a carbon portfolio.

The audit also seeded a recognition that many smallholder carbon projects and other ecosystem services, while delivering value for the climate and farmers, will need support from a blend of carbon and non-carbon-related finance to scale and deliver livelihood-enhancing benefits for farmers. While we will develop a portfolio of projects to benefit from carbon finance through the voluntary carbon market, we will also pursue regenerative and climate action projects that don’t fit a carbon finance model and require blended financing mechanisms or purely non-carbon financing to benefit smallholders and their communities.

Addressing barriers to market entry for smallholders as a Coalition

Financial systems and finance must value the co-benefits and ecosystem services smallholder farmers provide if we are to make carbon finance more accessible for smallholder farmers and local communities and effectively leverage the voluntary carbon market as a source of farmer income that bolsters resiliency, incentivizes the regenerative transition, and rewards smallholder climate action.

To advance this work, we needed to resolve how CASH is best placed to act in the carbon market in the interests of smallholders. Should the Coalition assume a commercial role in the marketplace – acting on behalf of our members to broker and secure deals – or do we advance our mission more effectively by developing the market through advocacy, providing advisory services, and convening learning opportunities that enable members to make more informed decisions?

We identified three potential options for CASH:

  1. Full commercial: CASH creates a for-profit entity to handle carbon transactions for all members under the CASH umbrella. This entity would provide exclusive services for project development, finance, and sales. While it offers collective bargaining power and the potential for better terms, it brings challenges such as significant upfront budget, staffing, and risks associated with a lack of experience.
  2. Market development and advocacy: CASH provides guidance and support to members on all aspects of project development, including selecting third-party service providers for project development, finance, and sales. This approach offers flexibility and cost-effectiveness but may result in giving up more revenue to intermediaries and could potentially exclude smaller projects.
  3. Combination: CASH partners with service providers while housing all CASH projects within a specialist vehicle owned and operated by CASH. This could lead to better terms and allow smaller, riskier projects to be bundled into a full portfolio, but it also introduces complexities regarding ownership.

At our in-person meeting in New York at the beginning of 2024, we resolved to pursue Option 2 for the next year. In the short term, we will advise and advance individual projects while convening learning opportunities and enabling a more robust engagement with the carbon market. Currently, nobody acts in this role without a corporate commercial interest that takes a stake in equity. We believe there is a significant opportunity accruing to our members’ longstanding relationships with smallholder communities, our scale as a community of practice, and our role as an honest broker seeking to advance smallholder livelihoods and climate action.

Creating a portfolio of smallholder climate projects

Having resolved to assist our members in a hybrid market development and commercial role, we solicited a first round of applications from our members for pre-feasibility project proposals and projects where CASH could help a member overcome a barrier to scale. Go to the portfolio


New workstreams:

The following workstreams are developing in real-time through working groups comprised of our members and strategic partners and complemented by technical assistance from consultant experts.

Agroforestry and Finance

Agroforestry is a leading practice for advancing climate mitigation and adaptation and broader regenerative benefits and ecosystem services such as protecting and promoting soil and water health and biodiversity. In the context of the coalition’s work and objectives, agroforestry offers value through its applicability across various contexts and agricultural supply chains and its ability to realize livelihoods and nature-related co-benefits. read more

Regenerative Agriculture for Generative AI (Regen4Gen)

A founding ambition of the Coalition is to aggregate knowledge and resources about regenerative practices from across our membership, targeting smallholder systems. This interest coincides with the rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI). Several early adopters in the CASH Coalition are already leveraging AI to advance and scale agricultural advisory. read more

Standards

There is consensus among CASH members that proliferating standards do not serve the interests of advancing regenerative smallholder agriculture and climate actions. We are aware of several actors engaged in developing new standards ostensibly to facilitate access to climate finance for smallholder communities. 

Two groups within the coalition are actively involved in developing standards and guidelines. An additional organization is researching the application of existing standards in real-world smallholder contexts. In the coming months, CASH will coordinate learning opportunities within the coalition and facilitate conversations with external actors advancing new smallholder-focused standards. 

As a community of practitioners and innovators with longstanding ties and a record of delivering value to smallholder communities, we believe that CASH can play a convening role in facilitating knowledge exchange and coordinating joint actions to better influence entry points for smallholders under existing standards and potential new standards.


The CASH Coalition is a project implemented by Panorama Global, a fiscal sponsor 501.3(c). Given our rapid development as an organization and our expanding scope of work, we are in the process of formalizing an independent legal identity and 501.3(c) status. We expect to transition our operations from Panorama Global’s fiscal sponsorship to a stand-alone legal and fiscal registration in 2024.

We thank the following foundations for their guidance and support:

  • Autodesk Foundation 
  • Ezrah Charitable Trust
  • Hampshire Foundation
  • Imago Dei Fund
  • King Philanthropies
  • Livelihood Impact Fund
  • Skoll Foundation
  • Tawingo Fund
  • Vitol Foundation