LOS BAÑOS, Laguna: The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) said the Covid-19 pandemic has put further emphasis on the need for effective and innovative financial mechanisms, especially for agriculture and food producers, and farmers and farming families.

This was what Searca Director Glenn Gregorio said during a dialogue the agency hosted in collaboration with the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture Intensification (Cosai) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Asia.

The virtual dialogue was held last November for a regional discourse titled "Paying for Nature and Society: Dialogue on Innovative Financial Mechanisms to Promote Equity and Sustainability in Agriculture-Asia," which is second in a series of regional discussions across the globe to understand how to incentivize farming to protect and restore nature.

Dindo Campilan, Asia regional director and Oceania Hub director of IUCN, highlighted the intent of the organizers to generate interest around agriculture as a force for conservation and underscored the importance of innovation, such as in financial instruments, in promoting environmental sustainability in the different regions globally.

On the other hand, Ximena Rueda of Cosai and the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia, presented emerging evidence that highlights the urgent need for better innovation of equitable financial instruments to support environmental objectives in Asia.

Highlighting the instruments developed for conservation that offer great opportunities for expansion into agricultural landscapes where the rural poor live, Rueda also noted that innovations must factor in political, technological and institutional facets that are within the reach of target stakeholders.

Also featured in the dialogue was wide-ranging panel discussion with Gamini Samarasinghe, additional secretary (Agriculture Technology) of the Ministry of Agriculture of Sri Lanka; Irish Baguilat, coordinator for United Nations' Decade of Family Farming and Women Farmers' Agenda of the Asian Farmers' Association; Prasun Kumar Das, secretary general of the Asia Pacific Rural and Agricultural Credit Association; Erin Sweeney, lead for Sustainable Investment and Inclusion of Grow Asia; and Eelko Bronkhorst, managing director of Financial Access.

According to Searca, the panelists shared different perspectives and experiences with the design or implementation of innovative financial incentives in agriculture and discussed ways in which financial incentives are designed. Also discussed what needs to change to consider a landscape approach, along with uncovering aspects of replicability, scalability and temporality of financial incentives in agriculture to support sustainable and equitable development.

They also shared real real-life experiences across Asia to better contextualize the development and implementation of financial instruments.