Agriculture is not working for people or the planet. The statistics are startling. 78% of the world’s poorest people remain reliant on agriculture, 33% of the world’s soils are degraded (a figure that could rise to 90% by 2050) and agriculture contributes to about a quarter of global climate emissions (stats from the World Bank, the FAO and the IPCC respectively). There is an emerging consensus that we need to move to a more regenerative food system.
Agriculture is not working for people or the planet. The statistics are startling. 78% of the world’s poorest people remain reliant on agriculture, 33% of the world’s soils are degraded (a figure that could rise to 90% by 2050) and agriculture contributes to about a quarter of global climate emissions (stats from the World Bank, the FAO and the IPCC respectively).
There is an emerging consensus that we need to move to a more regenerative food system.
In the Regenerative Agriculture: Growing Pains? series of webinars, Practical Action and IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative, - are exploring how regenerative agriculture can work for the private sector AND smallholder farmers, how companies in the food system can put regenerative agriculture at the centre of what they do and how actors can work together and finance regenerative agriculture at scale.
The drivers for this transition come from both ends of the supply chain. Farmers are experiencing deteriorating soils and unreliable rains, making their livelihoods increasingly vulnerable and ultimately also threatening supply chains. Meanwhile customers and consumers are increasingly expecting the food system to deliver sustainability including supporting a move to “net zero”.
This situation is leading to a wealth of hyperbole about the potential of regenerative agriculture. But casual talk of ‘win win’ solutions belies the complexity that is inherent. So in these webinars we are exploring the realities of transforming agriculture to a more regenerative approach.
For a long time modern agriculture has been based on mono-crops that have allowed food companies to become highly specialised. But regenerative agriculture is based on diversification, with multiple crops, the integration of livestock and cropping systems and a much greater attention to soil health, facilitated partly through a shift away from chemical inputs. Regenerative agriculture is also context specific which, as noted in Webinar 2, makes it very difficult when you’re a botanical company sourcing multiple products from different climatic zones around the globe.
As if the technical challenges of regenerative agriculture aren’t enough, it also presents a variety of other fundamental challenges across the food system:
The two webinars so far have really demonstrated that the route to a world in which regenerative agriculture is the norm will not be a simple one. It requires a tolerance of uncertainty, the ability to really learn and adapt along the way and the combined efforts of all stakeholders in the food system.
What has been so positive from these sessions is the willingness from the businesses and partners involved in making changes to regenerative agriculture to share their experience, lessons learned, questions, pitfalls and successes with others and explore new ways to collaborate. We have been listening closely to what would help more companies, make more progress, more effectively and welcome ideas from our network.
In the final webinar on 22 September, we will dig deeper into how to make this a reality at scale. We’ll be looking at the role of collaboration, between businesses and with public bodies and we’ll be exploring options for financing the transition to regeneration agriculture including through payments for ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration.