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The Regenerative Agriculture Revolution

The Regenerative Agriculture Revolution

The Regenerative Agriculture Revolution is a new EIT Food programme to help farmers in predominantly Southern Europe (and later Eastern Europe) learn about and transition to more regenerative methods of agriculture. 

Reports from leading organisations, such as FAO, IPCC, and EAT Forum, state the fundamental importance of transitioning to more regenerative agriculture methods if Europe is to meet its climate change targets, food security needs, protect our farmland and build a healthier food system. Current mainstream farming methods are resulting in the loss of fertile soil and biodiversity. According to Maria-Helena Semedo of the FAO, the world could run out of topsoil in about 60 years if we continue at current rates of soil destruction. This affects the earth’s ability of food production, water filtering and carbon absorption. We will not only suffer serious damage to public health due to a qualitatively degraded food supply characterized by diminished nutrition, but we will literally no longer have enough arable topsoil to feed ourselves.

Next to this our present agricultural system is a major contributor to the emissions of greenhouse gases. The IPCC states in its latest report on climate change that 24% of the total global GHG emissions are directly related to agricultural production. Whereas, regenerative agriculture sequesters carbon from the atmosphere and has the potential to reverse climate change instead of contributing to it. Without protecting and regenerating the soil on our 4 billion acres of cultivated farmland, 8 billion acres of pastureland, and 10 billion acres of forest land, it will be impossible to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius or halt the loss of biodiversity.

What is regenerative agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services. Resulting in increased yields, increased resilience to extreme weather events and climate change, and higher health and vitality for the rural communities.

Regenerative agriculture works according to a whole ecosystem approach, meaning aiming to work with nature instead of against it. For farm management decisions the whole farming ecosystem is considered. All the stakeholders that are affected are also taken into consideration and mutually beneficial relationships are established between them.The farm is a dynamic environment and continuous improvement and growth is pursued to utilise the full potential of the farm, community and individuals.

The most important aspect of regenerative agriculture is soil health in a holistic agro-ecosystem. In the end your soil is the most valuable asset of the farm. If you take care of your soil, it will take care of you. Minimizing soil disturbance by adopting conservation tillage and minimizing chemicals and biological activities are fundamental practices of regenerative agriculture. Large amounts of CO2 are released during ploughing activities and at the same time the soil is exposed to erosion.

Some of the key techniques that are being used in regenerative agriculture to increase soil health are no tillage, cover crops, increasing biodiversity, rotation cropping, attracting natural predators of pests and integrating livestock.

Stages

  • Education: The programme will begin with a bootcamp for farmers in RIS regions that are looking to transition into more regenerative agriculture methods. The bootcamp will include field trips to farmers who have made the transition, lectures from leading agricultural specialists and practical advice about how to transition.
  • A Transion Bursary: a leading reason for farmers failure in regenerative agriculture methods is the risk and cost involved. As such, the programme will offer a small bursary to help farmers implement this kind of agriculture practices and thus, de-risk the transion.
  • Ongoing Support: farmers on the programme will be matched with an expert mentor (other farmer or consultant) that will guide their transition over a period of 12 months and beyond. The 'mentor' will work closely with the farmer to help them redesign their farm and access new markets to increase sales.
  • Technological Support: EIT Food works with Europe's leading agricultural startups that can provide sensors and tools to help farmers track the impact of their evolution. This programme will introduce suitable tech providers to the farmers so that they can further increase their producvity and track their impact.

Programme

On 30 and 31 March there will be workshop with leading organisations and businesses from the agrifood industry. Based on the outcomes of this workshop the programme will be designed.

Impact

  • 10 farmers will be educated on how they can farm in a more sustainable manner (e.g. sequestering carbon in the soil, protecng biodiversity and producing more nutritious crops.) 
  • Standardised tools and curriculums to educate farmers in RIS regions will be developed so that the programme can scale in future years.
  • A methodology to track the impacts will be developed so that we can benchmark the impact of the programme.
  • Environmental impacts through the transition to regenerative methods of agriculture, including lower CO2 levels, increased yields, greater levels of organic matter in soil and increased water retention (important to fight droughts).

Elegibility

Farmers from RIS regions. Further details about the elegibility criteria will be shared when the call is launched.

Application

The call for applications is now closed. The date for 2020 application will follow soon.

Project team

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