In a nutshell, the current farming system is broken – for the environment and rural economy. Land degradation and habitat loss are driven by agriculture, while most farmers are unable to build reasonable lives for themselves. Regenerative agriculture is gaining massive traction1 as a system to increase overall farm resilience and productivity while driving tangible impact:
- When managed regeneratively to restore soil, water and biodiversity, agricultural lands sequester carbon, mitigate climate change and halt biodiversity loss.
- Regenerative production leads to improved product quality and reduced input costs, which increases farmer income and market access.
- Working in partnerships with farmers and agri-entrepreneurs creates the economic underpinning needed to drive/incentivise the adoption of regenerative agriculture.
We are on a mission to make regenerative agriculture work economically, at scale for farmers in Africa.
Scaling regenerative agriculture
We’ve written before about the challenges of making regen ag work and shared our successes when it does. These stories come from close to a decade of building up in-house expertise in implementing regenerative agriculture, working with agri-processing companies2 whose impact lies at this intersection of agriculture, livelihoods and the environment.
Grounded works on multiple fronts to achieve our mission. We developed an evergreen investment company that invests in African regenerative opportunities, and a management company that works hands-on with them on strategy and scaling. To support other farmers and businesses on the same mission, we built a regenerative ingredients marketplace, connecting those looking for regenerative ingredients with those producing them. Together, these pillars create the ecosystem needed for the regenerative transition.
But beyond the foundation of a solid business structure and access to market, the transition requires technical regenerative knowledge delivered through practical and adaptive implementation. That’s where the Regen Facility comes in.
Daniel Fourie, Grounded’s regenerative agriculture enthusiast examining pepper spike shedding – a disease response which can lead to massive crop losses for the farmers. Grounded and Trianon have been collaborating with multiple research institutes and agricultural offices to develop a rapid, effective and ecologically sensitive response to these challenges.
Photo credit: Stephie Mendelsohn
Drilling down on on-the-ground support
Regenerative agriculture is knowledge intensive, but tested technical information and robust support structures remain largely unavailable. In contrast, input intensive, conventional agriculture, which is characterised by heavy use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers, has been extensively promoted – for industrial farming and as a crutch for smallholders. This is even without delivering on promised impacts3. While billions of dollars flow into trials driven by large fertiliser and bio-chemical companies, there is a desperate need for more research into regenerative practices and how to successfully transition.
While billions of dollars flow into trials driven by large fertiliser and bio-chemical companies, there is a desperate need for more research into regenerative practices and how to successfully transition.
Regenerative agriculture addresses challenges and needs in the agro-ecological system as a whole, and therefore its success is based on the compounding effect of multiple interventions applied together. Traditional research often explores discrete variables to measure the outcome or experiments in controlled and ideal environments, which doesn’t really cut it. Instead, we need to explore the in’s and outs in practical and adaptive environments to create pragmatic tools for farmers, build a solid knowledge base and be able to show proven benefits of regenerative agriculture.
The objectives of the Regen Facility are to combine a research and learning approach with direct regenerative-agronomic support. This is to ultimately improve the ‘regenerative’ nature of the farms and agri-businesses we work with and to mitigate the risks/shorten the timelines involved. We aim to continue to build the knowledge base and walk hand-in-hand with the producers doing regenerative agriculture. The facility will target our large network of farmers, through Grounded’s Operating Companies (OpCo’s) in Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa and suppliers of Grounded Ingredients (Southern and Eastern Africa) while the research outcomes will hopefully reach well beyond our group network.
1 Regenerative Agriculture: The Next Trend In Food Retailing, Forbes.
2 This report excellently describes the types of organisation we work with, their motivation and influence.
3 A recent review of AGRA showed that efforts to expand capital-intensive, high-input agriculture in Africa had failed to achieve its goals.
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