You may or may not have heard of regenerative agriculture or farming, but it's become a bit of a buzzword in the sustainable food sector. While there are various interpretations of the term, it is based on a series of practices used to reestablish the relationships between humans, crops, animals, soil, and the ecosystems they reside in.
It is a vision of the future for global food production that combines indigenous knowledge with western science and technology to provide safe and nutritious food to reverse our greenhouse gas emissions by sequestering (storing) carbon in the soil where it belongs. There are many, often small, farms which operate using regenerative farming practices.
The roots of nature-friendly farming
Indigenous communities have long held innate knowledge of many of the techniques we refer to when discussing regenerative farming. While the term has only been around for a few decades, these practices have existed for centuries and include methods such as:
European colonists of Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas bought with their farming techniques, crops, and disease. To keep up with the new demands on agriculture, a new relationship with the land developed around ownership and production. Landscapes were transformed, fences erected, and large-scale monoculture farming was established to meet the rising demands for food and the drive for expansion lead to the exploitation and extraction of both human labour and physical resources. This devastated communities and the land they'd been living on for generations, removing indigenous knowledge, native flora and fauna, and food sovereignty in the process.
The benefits of regenerative farming
The philosophy behind this method of farming takes a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food production, focusing on, but not limited to, the following:
Improved water cycling and flood protection
Enhanced ecosystem services
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, sequestering carbon in the soil could eliminate over 250 million metric tons of CO2 per year and help us to reverse our environmental impact.
Need for change
We can see the environmental destruction of humans all around us. With huge biodiversity loss and an increase in extreme weather events it is imperative that we improve our farming practices. While there has been a recent trend in small-scale farmers adopting regenerative practices, it's good to see large companies, including PepsiCo, Nestle and Unilever, announcing plans to implement these practices in their operations.
These practices have already been implemented on 15% of global cropland. However, the rate of transition must be tripled by 2030 to prevent the global temperature from rising past the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celcius above pre-industrial levels. As the link between human health and planetary health becomes more apparent, it is essential to shift now to protect our existence.