Introduction to Regenerative Agriculture

“In just over a decade regenerative agriculture has garnered a lot of attention with land-use stakeholders in the Global North. Especially in the food, farming, and environmental sectors. The concept of ‘regenerative’ has also grown beyond reference to agricultural systems and is seen as being the concept-in-waiting for upgrading ideas of sustainability and resilience (Wahl).

At its core, the idea tries to tackle some of the temporal limitations of “sustainable development” (Mitcham) that are also reflected in ideas of saving, conserving, or defending a “natural resource” or “wildlife”. In sum, it frames land-use, by humans and certain assemblages of herbivore and plant species, as capable of adding value to natural resources. This is in comparison to the idea that humans simply extract value and the best we can do is mitigate, limit, or redirect that exploitation.

Proponents and practitioners of regenerative agriculture are often focussed either on the technicalities of its practice e.g. can it sequester carbon and how much, or on loosely appealing to some idea of it being the authentic way to manage a landscape harmoniously e.g. historically farmed areas of natural heritage and beauty in the Global North, or land-use practices of indigenous peoples. There is a growing literature on the former focus, but almost zero historical ecology and environmental anthropology brought to bear on the second.

In addition there is no scientific assessment of what it would mean in practice for regenerative agriculture to form a significant if not central part of land-use in a given region. There are studies that loosely estimate its productive capacity. There are studies that loosely estimate its ecological contributions to things like biodiversity and carbon sequestration. And there are lots of techno-fetishist visions of regenerative farming futures.”

The original intro to a piece I thought worth sharing.