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This article was co-authored by Cato Koole (NewForesight), Eric Rahn (CIAT),
Dominique Gangneux (South Pole) & Samuel Vionnet (South Pole)
NewForesight, CIAT and South Pole have formed a unique coalition to support and accelerate the transition to Regenerative Agriculture. With complementary expertise and a solid track record in diverse disciplines, the consortium presents a critical look into Regenerative Agriculture and its potential for innovative and pragmatic investments towards more sustainable markets. This consortium started during a collaboration with IDH, and will continue to work with other partners and like-minded organizations to support them in the transition towards Regenerative Agriculture. This note presents insights the team distilled from its learning journey.
In the post-COVID era, it is essential to adopt better approaches to production and towards resilience. This is particularly imperative in agriculture, where there is increasing demand for food given the projections for growth population to 9.7 billion in 2050. At present smallholders operate 12% of agricultural land, and average farm sizes are expected to decrease in Africa and Asia towards 2050. Smallholders increasingly face challenges like droughts, infertile soils while struggling to profit from their farms.
Regenerative Agriculture is a holistic approach to agriculture that aims at restoring ecosystems to a healthy and resilient state by improving soil functions and management of agrobiodiversity whilst providing sufficient return to build up impact in different dimensions such as the economic dimension (by enhancing productivity and quality), social (by ensuring improved livelihoods to farmers because of the diversity and resilience), and environmental (by sequestering carbon and increasing biodiversity). Basically, it is the transition from a less diverse crop-landscape to a multifunctional landscape.
While regenerative agriculture in developed countries focuses mainly on increasing agrobiodiversity on farm level and decreasing external inputs through improved nutrient cycling, smallholder farmers in the tropics often already work with substantial crop, tree and livestock diversity on a relatively small area, yet face constrains of low yields and lack of biomass and nutrient availability. Transitions towards more regenerative practices in smallholder systems are often limited by resource endowments and the difficulties to identify relevant entry points to the heterogeneous farming system realities and navigate inherent trade-offs. Hence, the challenge remains in the adoption of regenerative agriculture at scale in smallholder driven value chains such as coffee, cocoa, spices, fruits, vegetables and other commodities produced in the global south.
Whatever the value chain you work with, there are three key aspects that you must consider when considering the adoption of Regenerative practices:
NewForesight, CIAT and South Pole have combined their strengths to better understand what regenerative agriculture means in different contexts, in particular the implications of transitioning towards regenerative agriculture for smallholders, private sector and other key actors in global value chains. We aim to support and accelerate learnings in this area for increased impact across the agricultural sector.
Contact Silvana Paniagua if you are interested in exploring what regenerative agriculture means for your value chains and how regenerative agriculture can help you deliver your sustainability goals.
 UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, World Population Prospects, 2019
 Lowder et al., The Number, Size, and Distribution of Farms, Smallholder Farms,and Family Farms Worldwide, 2016