Regenerative is hot. The European Commission wants more regenerative agriculture in Europe in 2030, supporting ecosystem recovery and increasing carbon capture in the soil. However, financial incentives are still lacking. In addition, the term “regenerative” is at risk of being hijacked for greenwashing. The new Business Alliance for Regenerative Agriculture (BARA) wants to change this by connecting current initiatives and by working jointly on new reward structures for ecosystem services and social benefits of regenerative agriculture.
Recently, the BARA alliance was launched during a conference in Waddinxveen, hosted by Climate Farmers (Berlin) and Dutch organic trade firm Eosta. Some eighty initiatives and companies from all over the world attended. Host and initiator Volkert (Eosta) commented: “The bottom line is that we need to start financially rewarding positive externalities of regenerative agriculture. We’ve been talking about people and planet a lot, but we still pay farmers per kilo only. As long as that does not change, we will get nowhere.”
Scaling up and guarding integrity
Regenerative agriculture is agriculture that contributes to the recovery of ecosystems – not only carbon capture in the soil, but also soil fertility, healthy water management and biodiversity conservation. Moreover, regenerative agriculture can make a positive social impact; it is knowledge-intensive and increases the quality of life in rural areas. Momentum for regenerative agriculture is strong, but coherence and vision is lacking. BARA aims to scale up regenerative agriculture while guarding integrity.
Beyond a reductionist approach
To reward regenerative agriculture, there needs to be a system of verification and accreditation embedded in policy. A lot has to be done in this regard. A reductionist approach, where one aspect of sustainability gets all the attention, is a serious risk. Instead, an integral sustainability model is needed, which takes into account both ecological and social impacts. In doing so, it is important to also capitalise on the preliminary work of organic and BD agriculture. BARA’s new working groups will address principles, measurement methods, validation and monetisation.
The BARA launch on 24 September was in the form of a conference attended by a great many leading figures in regenerative agriculture from Europe, the US, Australia and Africa. Apart from Eosta and Climate Farmers, the attendees included representatives of the Climate Neutral Group and Boschendal Estate (South Africa), Regeneration International (Australia), Greenyard and Colruyt (Belgium), SEKEM (Egypt), The Landbanking Group, Alnatura and Demeter International (Germany), Patagonia and the Regenerative Organic Alliance (USA), WUR Wageningen and Fair Climate Fund (Netherlands) and BIO Stiftung Schweiz (Switzerland). Besides reward systems, concrete projects in Ethiopia, the Bodensee region, Egypt and South Africa were discussed. Thousands of smallholders are already benefiting from the valorisation of ecosystem services in these regions.
The conference concluded with the presentation of a manifesto. Seven working groups were set up to continue working on the following themes: Carbon Methodologies, Policy Engagement, Trading Positive Externalities, Sharing & Exchanging Experiences, Consumer Awareness & Retail Storytelling, Setting up Farms & Transforming Regions, and Organic Meets Regenerative. Climate Farmers will coordinate the proceedings. A new conference will be convened in 2023 to share results and experiences.
Eosta, jointly with Climate Farmers from Berlin, took the initiative to establish BARA. Eosta, with Nature & More as its consumer brand and transparency system, is a leading international distributor of organic fruits and vegetables. The company is known for its sustainability campaigns such as Living Wages, True Cost of Food and Dr Goodfood, winning the King Willem I Prize for Sustainable Entrepreneurship in 2018 and the European Business Award for the Environment in 2019. See also www.eosta.com and www.natureandmore.com.
Photography: Margit Houtman