Research mapping regenerative agriculture in Africa
Updated: Sep 8
To learn more about regenerative agriculture, or 'regenag' or 'RA' in short, particularly in regions that are less reported upon, we felt a need to do a mapping and get the latest insights and developments. The findings serve as a starting point for conversations with key actors in the field.
Our research question was formed as follows:
What are the actors and factors to either enhance or inhibit a shift in thinking and practice to regenerative agriculture in Africa?
This led to the following research report:
RA (f)actors in Africa by Kirsten van Reisen
Kirsten van Reisen is an ‘impact researcher’ and consultant with extensive experience in PMEL (planning, monitoring, evaluation & learning) and sustainability for public sector, private sector and the international NGO sector. She has a personal interest in Regenerative Agriculture, and has spend time all over the world working on RA farms.
What's in the report?
Kirsten van Reisen’s report gives us an insight into Regenerative Agriculture on the African continent.
There are many terms in circulation used in relation to what regenerative agriculture means, with varying objectives. Some are more or less related to food production, community engagement or nature restoration. Kirsten gives us first a breakdown of the different principles of regenerative agriculture and includes a description of the terms that are related to Regenerative Agriculture, such as Agroforestry, Farmer Managed Natural Restoration, Conservation, Holistic Grazing and Permaculture. The report gives a complete picture of the meaning of Regenerative Agriculture.
Six factors that have barriers and levers
According to the report, there are six main areas that help or hinder the use of RA within Africa: Political Factors, Economic Factors, Social Factors, Technological, Legal and International Factors. These include the general poor economic conditions for investment in the transition, lack of knowledge among policy makers and farmers of the benefits of RA, fragmentation of RA actors across the continent. The large differences in climate across the continent means it is more difficult to apply and one-size-fits-all model. Kirsten found that we must find solutions in Africa that combine the best of RA and the scaling potential of mainstream farming. In addition. The legal issue regarding the uncertainty regarding land ownership and future of tenure is not conducive to making longer term decision regarding transitioning to RA. International factors include the presence of too many global players (Big Ag) that are heavily investing in the mainstream methods - focusing on selling chemical inputs and GMO seeds to farmers. This practice even happens as part of some NGO initiatives focused on food security.
In general, Kirsten states that only a few African countries have policies in place to help scale regenerative agriculture. In most countries, conventional agriculture and/or imported agricultural products are subsidized and when regenerative agriculture is not considered part of that subsidy framework (for example, when croplands are mixed with non-productive species, in some countries the land loses its agricultural status and therefore subsidies), it puts RA at a disadvantage for growth.
Actors in Regenerative Agriculture in Africa
To make regenag possible at scale, the report states we need a wide range of actors from farm to plate. In fact, the work starts even before the farms, with the right inputs and enabling environment from the scientific community to the farm inputs (seeds, seedlings, tools) and the policymakers. Then there are the practitioners: the farmers, the network organisations, the consultants and finally those who bring RA to the market: business case developers, marketeers, awareness raisers, buyers and distributors.
Kirsten’s report includes country specific examples of actors: many at government level that are beginning to scale up regenerative agriculture projects: Rwanda and Ethiopia are shown as front runners. Kirsten reports gives specific examples of actors that are working with farmers or networks helping to scale up RA in Africa.
Kirsten includes The Researchers, The Networkers, The Engineers, The Business Partners, The Big Permacultures, The Mainstream Attractors, The Grass-Roots Growers, The Global Buyers, The Impact Investors and The Social Architects. Her presentation of actors under these headings gives a fascinating insight into the just the very ‘tip of the iceberg’ of RA in Africa.
Kirsten’s report concludes with her stating that she has concentrated her work on those projects capable of scaling up. The networking organisations, the policy-making space, and the connections to knowledge, inputs and markets described within the report are essential to Regenerative Agriculture’s success.
Read the full report here: