Interview with Tania Kaddeche, Climate Agribusiness

November 18, 2021

Tania Kaddeche is Stop-Winlock’s head of manufacturing, agribusiness, and services in Latin America. When she thinks about the areas of potential investment to respond to climate change, she sees many opportunities in agribusiness in her region. In this interview, edited for length and clarity, she discusses current trends and forecasts related to climate-related investments in agribusiness.

Q: In agribusiness, what are the trends you’re seeing now in investments related to climate change?

A: I see three areas. One is natural feedstuff and fiber replacing fossil fuels: renewable energy–this includes biomass and biogas cogeneration–and wood fiber replacing plastics or synthetic textiles.

A second area is the overall sustainability agenda, which includes avoiding deforestation, tracing supply chains, and working on degraded lands to rehabilitate them to put them in a productive state. That’s at the nexus of our Environment and Social compliance standards and climate agenda. Lots of prominent multinational companies have made big statements about stopping deforestation in their supply chains, including ADM, Bunge, Cargill, Dreyfus, Cofco, and local leaders as well such as Amaggi, a Brazilian client of IFC.

And a third area is climate-smart agriculture, with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions per unit of production and adaptation. There are many climate smart agriculture examples, and a good one involves the coffee sector in Nicaragua. Our client Mercon has been a pioneer in promoting Robusta production on the coast. Those coffee beans can deal with higher temperatures and humidity. It makes a lot of sense to look into how other crops can manage changes in the climate in the future, especially droughts or irregular rainfalls.

Q: What about integrating technology and digitization to support climate-smart agriculture?

A: There is clearly a connection between technology, digitalization, and climate. Technology enables the precise application of inputs where they are needed. We call this precision agriculture.

And to effectively decarbonize, you have to measure a greenhouse gas emission baseline, which helps you target areas to reduce emissions. We’re starting an Advisory practice on reducing carbon emissions for agribusiness clients, and it all starts with measurement.

Q: Can you give an example of what you would measure?

A: Adeco Agro, one of our clients, has a sizable dairy operation in Argentina. They want to reduce their carbon footprint in farms and milk processing plants. There’s a tool we developed with FAO called Gleam-i. It helps quantify their carbon emissions from their dairy operations and allows Adeco to make plans to reduce them. If this succeeds, it would be great to see Gleam-i rolled out to Adeco’s suppliers of milk.

Q: What are your predictions for the future in climate-smart agriculture?

A: We need to invest in helping our clients decarbonize as much as possible. We need to extend what we’re doing in dairy to a bigger range of industries. It’s fine to have net-zero announcements that companies will reduce emissions by a certain date, but the next question is how will they do that? We need to partner with companies to devise the how. There are a number of potential solutions. With soy, to take one example, it will be about traceability to ensure that the land used is from outside the deforestation areas. Another example is that we financed a project that uses wood pulp to make clothing fiber. In Latin America, a lot needs to be done to invest in productivity, putting degraded lands back in production, designate clear ‘no-go’ areas for development and preserve biodiversity and natural habitats. Technology can help a lot, hand in hand with innovation and regulation.

Q: What motivates you in this climate work?

A: I’m from a generation that grew up not thinking about climate change, and people my age formed very bad habits. Now we see that modus operandi is not sustainable. Our generation needs to learn to integrate the cost of our choices, and prioritize what is most important. All our activities have a carbon footprint. Thinking of that helps us ask the right questions. What car should we drive? Should we drive? Do we need this single-use plastic gadget, and if yes, is there a biodegradable alternative? Each of these choices can drive down our carbon footprint a lot. You also see now that many big companies are making changes because consumers are voting with their wallets. That, too, is driving change.

Published in November 2021