Enablers for adoption of regenerative agriculture
Below we have summarised enablers to regenerative agriculture from Magrini et al. (2019), Anderson et al. (2019), Gosnell et al. (2019) and from personal experience and personal communication with Graham Hand (2019). This could provide a framework or checklist that could be useful to frame deeper analysis of barriers and enablers related to a specific practice change; project or group of farmers. Enablers cannot be considered in isolation - they are compounding or reinforcing and each individual will experience a unique expression or combination of factors for their context. Needless to say, government or other projects designed to overcome barriers need to be designed to respond to diverse contexts and interrelating factors/considerations.
PSYCHOLOGICAL Cognitive resonance between being (identity) and doing. Experience of an environmental, business or personal crisis or significant event that “opened the door”; newfound humility; questioning one’s approach to farming; articulating a long-term holistic goal; sense of alignment between values, goals and behaviour; sense of control from having a plan and tools to enact it; a focus on happiness and relationships; renewed connection to nature and community; enthusiasm and renewed interest in one’s land associated with a new way of “seeing” the land; the prospect of leaving a legacy; new identity as an earth steward; sense of “right” livelihood; sense of integrity; less stress eg better relationship with livestock; fewer chemicals; sense of awe, wonder, empathy for all things; better health; and more free time (Gosnell et al 2019).
PRACTICAL (eg Graham Hand on ecological grazing ) Infrastructure/stock Many paddocks and many water points; adequate water supply; good yards and lanes for easy handling and moving; livestock bred for low maintenance, moderate milk, high density. Practice areas Learning from small experiments Simple Grazing plan One mob, one long recovery; Daily monitoring. Decision framework eg HM - minimise unintended consequences. Review changes to budget and stocking rate regularly (eg every month). Labour intensity and other costs go up significantly if all above not in place.
Wang et al (2020) have found that labour and water source constraints are the two major challenges to adoption of rotational grazing in the US. Landowners with higher quality soil, relatively more grassland (in both acres and percentage) and more owned land generally perceive lower barriers to choosing rotational grazing practices. (While “rotational grazing” is not necessarily ecological grazing, the findings are likely applicable).
Observation of soil and pasture improvements; improved soil moisture retention; increased resilience to drought; enhanced presence of native perennial grasses; fewer problems with weeds; more biodiversity in pastures (Gosnell et al 2019).
Reduced inputs and expenses; less financial risk; high value products (nutrient dense; grass finished; organic/low input); ability to participate in niche marketing, certification schemes, carbon markets and ‘payments for ecosystem services’; fewer veterinary expenses (Gosnell et al 2019).
CULTURAL New identities and measures of success. eg Anderson et al 2019: Context specific, place-based forms of agriculture Holistic approach that breaks free from sectoral thinking - food systems Valuing role of family farmers/small-scale producers Greater participation of different social actors and local communities in shaping the transition to sustainable food systems Food sovereignty, autonomy, and rights-based approach
Communities of practice and peer support; sense of community; ongoing social learning eg microscope clubs; maintenance of interest and enthusiasm; conservation awards, public recognition for stewardship (Gosnell et al 2019).
SYSTEMIC Anderson et al 2019: Access to natural ecosystems - Secure land tenure and land reform / access to seeds Knowledge - Enabling and valuing agroecological knowledge. Systems of exchange - compatible with diverse and locally adapted production and diets. Networks - Knowledge, markets, discourse, inclusivity, and production practices in agroecology are all developed through networking and social organization Gender and equity - agroecological develops mostly through networking and community self-organising so systems addressing equity at multiple levels are crucial.
Some supportive government programs and training; niche markets, consumer demand, certification schemes; academic degree programs in universities; tertiary training courses eg NSW TAFE; network of private training providers; supportive network of non-profit organisations; validation of regenerative agriculture practices by the IPCC (Gosnell et al 2019).