17 Organizations Feeding and Healing the World Through Regenerative Agriculture
By Eva Perroni
Transitioning to more sustainable forms of agriculture remains critical, as many current agriculture practices have serious consequences including deforestation and soil degradation. But despite agriculture's enormous potential to hurt the environment, it also has enormous potential to heal it. Realizing this, many organizations are promoting regenerative agriculture as a way to not just grow food but to progressively improve ecosystems.
Drawing from decades of research, regenerative agriculture uses farming principles designed to mimic nature. To build healthy soils and fertile, thriving agro-ecosystems, this approach incorporates a range of practices like agroforestry and well-managed grazing. Benefits of these practices include richer soil, healthier water systems, increased biodiversity, climate change resilience and stronger farming communities.
To celebrate the ongoing work of individuals and organizations dedicated to healing agro-ecosystems around the globe, Food Tank is highlighting these 17 organizations building a global grassroots movement for better agriculture.
Aranya Agricultural Alternatives organizes and strengthens rural farming communities in India to achieve food and nutrition security through permaculture farming practices. Sanskrit for "forest," Aranya promotes natural agricultural practices based on forests' self-regulating ecosystems. Aranya runs permaculture design courses and workshops as well as community-based projects focused on watershed and soil management, tree-based farming, diversified cropping, animal integration and seed saving.
Grounded, an organization based in Cape Town, South Africa, partners with farmers across sub-Saharan Africa "to develop regenerative businesses [that] establish a healthier and more profitable balance between nature and agriculture, while shortening the value chain between producers and consumers." Their projects include restoring the natural biodiversity in the biodiversity hotspots of Madagascar, the Langkloof and the Baviaanskloof, as well as restoring natural migration routes of elephants in Zambia. Grounded is actively working to improve soil quality, increase the vegetation cover and add to the water table in these regions while promoting sustainable and profitable farming models.
Kiss the Ground is a California-based nonprofit working to regenerate land and reverse climate change through rebuilding healthy soil. They create educational curriculum, campaigns and media to raise awareness and empower individuals to purchase food that support healthy soils and a balanced climate. Kiss the Ground also works with farmers, educators, NGOs, scientists, students and policymakers to advocate for regenerative agriculture, and help drive brands and businesses to develop more sustainable supply chains worldwide. Locally, they operate a community garden in Venice, California, demonstrating urban permaculture to volunteers and homeless youth.
RegenAG is a community-based family enterprise providing farmers, professional organizations and communities with education and training to learn from the world's most innovative and effective regenerative agriculture practitioners in a wide range of fields. Their on-farm consulting and extension services teach farmers the knowledge and skills to significantly reduce inputs and effectively manage and monitor farm fertility though beneficial microbe capture and reproduction, water cycle repair, soil building and other holistic management strategies. RegenAg also holds courses, workshops and field days to showcase the success and trials of farmers who have adopted regenerative strategies on their farm.
Regeneration International (RI) provides information and resources that highlight the connection between healthy soil, regenerative agriculture and land use, food, health, healthy economies and climate change. These include a multilingual website and social media networks, an interactive online portal, consumer campaigns, events and international conferences. And every year, RI brings a delegation to the U.N. Climate Summit to raise awareness about the links between soil and climate. RI also engages in farmer training, through partnerships with Via Organica and its teaching farm and the Main Street Project's regenerative poultry project.
The Rodale Institute is known for pioneering and continually advocating for the use of regenerative agricultural practices. Founded in 1947 in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, by J.I. Rodale, the Institute has transformed 333 acres of formerly degraded farmland into highly fertile and productive land growing a variety of organic crops. The farm forms the basis for Rodale's research, education and outreach, and it is home to the longest-running comparative study of organic and chemical agriculture, started in 1981.
The Savory Network is a global group of entrepreneurial innovators and leaders working to advance regenerative agriculture, reverse desertification and combat climate change. With more than 30 hubs around the world, the Savory Network advocates, trains, implements and facilitates Holistic Management and regenerative agriculture practices in their own global and agricultural contexts. The network is an initiative of the Savory Institute, which has the broader goal of informing policymakers, establishing market incentives and increasing public awareness to support the ecological restoration of grasslands worldwide.
8. Soil Capital
Soil Capital is "a company committed to scaling and sustaining regenerative agriculture through market-based solutions." Using proven farming processes and adapted technology, they focus on maximizing farm profitability through increased soil health, resilience and the natural productivity of the farm ecosystem as a whole. Through partnerships with experienced farmers who demonstrate resource-efficient and sustainable operations, Soil Capital assists other farmers in transitioning from conventional to regenerative agricultural practices. In doing so, Soil Capital seeks to scale and replicate holistic and healthy agricultural projects worldwide.
Soils, Food and Healthy Communities is a participatory, farmer-led organization which uses local indigenous knowledge and agroecological methods to improve food security, nutrition and soils in Malawi. Their Malawi Farmer-to-Farmer Agroecology project uses farmer-to-farmer teaching about agroecological farming methods to sustainably manage soils, improve agricultural and dietary diversity and improve incomes of 6,000 farming households in central and northern Malawi. Through the use of grains and perennial legumes, farmers fix nitrogen, nutrients and organic matter directly into the soil, improving soil fertility and enhancing environmental and food security.
Founded by leading international soil microbiologist Dr. Elaine Ingham, the Soil Foodweb Institute (SFI) provides expert analysis and advice to empower primary producers to take control of maintaining the health of their soil. SFI analyzes soil micro-organism activity and creates management plans tailored to farmers' specific soils to achieve a sustainable, productive and low-input farming system. SFI Laboratories have extended across the globe, providing services to thousands of farmers to improve the health and productivity of their soils.
The mission of this nonprofit organization is to "preserve the environment by partnering with families to improve well-being through sustainable farming." They work in Central America promoting sustainable alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture. Through their multi-year program, participants receive tailored training and technical assistance. Former Peace Corps Volunteer Florence Reed founded the organization in 1997 after realizing the potential for training in sustainable agriculture to help farmers provide for their families while engaging in restorative practices.
Terra Genesis International is a regenerative design consultancy that includes engineers, permaculture design experts, agro-ecologists, foresters, carbon scientists and financial analysts. They help large-scale agriculture and business clients that use natural ingredients in their products to redesign their supply chains and incorporate agricultural practices that regenerate soil, increase biodiversity and boost business.
The Carbon Underground acts as an umbrella organization connecting academia, businesses, organizations, schools, governments and the general public, communicating and educating about the power of healthy soil to combat climate change. The Carbon Underground coordinates a globally interconnected set of research groups working to demonstrate the impact of sustainable agriculture, land management and regenerative enterprises as principal tools for sequestering carbon. Through their focus areas of corporate impact, education and training, policy and communications, The Carbon Underground aims to facilitate the widespread transition of farms, ranches and grasslands from industrial into regenerative enterprises.
The Ecological Farming Association (EcoFarm) is a nonprofit organization that connects farmers, ranchers, distributors, retailers, activists and researchers for education, alliance building and advocacy. They run an annual Ecological Farming Conference that features more than 70 workshops, intensives, exhibitions and special events including seed swaps, film screenings and organic culinary fare. EcoFarm also offers a free mentoring program for apprentices and beginning farmers as well as a range of online farmer resources. EcoFarm is a broad network of grassroots leadership and has facilitated an exchange of knowledge for more than 60,000 people across the U.S.
The Land Institute focuses on developing perennial grains, pulses and oilseed crops. Their crops are grown in "ecologically intensified polycultures" that mimic the diversity of natural ecosystems. The Land Institute breeds new perennial crops and develops ways to productively grow these crops in diverse polyculture mixtures. Led by a team of ecologists and plant breeders that partner with multiple organizations worldwide, The Land Institute works to develop an agricultural system that can produce ample food while minimizing or eliminating the negative impacts of industrial agriculture.
The Timbaktu Collective works to protect, manage and restore degraded ecosystems in rural Indian village communities. The Collective works in 172 villages within the Anantapur district, reaching and serving approximately 21,000 marginalized families. Their work in ecology includes the restoration of wastelands through planting locally adapted indigenous varieties of trees, reviving traditional water-harvesting structures to conserve water, and rejuvenating soil health through organic farming practices.
The Traditional Native American Farmers Association holds an annual Indigenous Sustainable Food Systems Design Course, providing training in ecological design, natural farming and earth restoration. The course is a holistic indigenous approach based on traditional knowledge and practices. These practices help improve air and water quality, ecosystems, nutrition and community health. The Traditional Native American Farmers Association also holds workshops and training on seed saving, beekeeping and growing medicinal herbs to enhance biodiversity and increase seed and crop vitality.
Eva Perroni was a Research & Writing Fellow at Food Tank and a freelance researcher-writer and activist focused on promoting sustainable food systems. She holds an MA in Development Studies from the University of Melbourne, maintaining a strong research focus on global food security and food and agriculture politics.
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By Melissa Hawkins
After sustained declines in the number of COVID-19 cases over recent months, restrictions are starting to ease across the United States. Numbers of new cases are falling or stable at low numbers in some states, but they are surging in many others. Overall, the U.S. is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of new cases a day, and by late June, had surpassed the peak rate of spread in early April.
Seven day rolling average of number of people confirmed to have COVID-19, per day (not including today). This chart gets updated once per day with data by Johns Hopkins. Johns Hopkins university doesn't provide reliable data for March 12 and March 13. Johns Hopkins CSSE Get the data
To Have a Second Wave, the First Wave Needs to End.<p>A wave of an infection describes a large rise and fall in the number of cases. There isn't a precise epidemiological definition of when a wave begins or ends.</p><p>But with talk of a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/27/new-covid-19-clusters-across-world-spark-fear-of-second-wave" target="_blank">second wave in the news</a>, as an <a href="https://www.american.edu/cas/faculty/mhawkins.cfm" target="_blank">epidemiologist and public health researcher</a>, I think there are two necessary factors that must be met before we can colloquially declare a second wave.</p><p>First, the virus would have to be controlled and transmission brought down to a very low level. That would be the end of the first wave. Then, the virus would need to reappear and result in a large increase in cases and hospitalizations.</p><p>Many countries in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0908-8" target="_blank">Europe and Asia have successfully ended the first wave</a>. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/08/new-zealand-abandons-covid-19-restrictions-after-nation-declared-no-cases" target="_blank">New Zealand</a> and <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/06/08/how-iceland-beat-the-coronavirus" target="_blank">Iceland</a> have also made it through their first waves and are now essentially coronavirus-free, with very low levels of community transmission and only a handful of active cases currently.</p>
Different States, Different Trends<p>Looking at U.S. numbers as a whole hides what is really going on. Different states are in <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html" target="_blank">vastly different situations right now</a> and when you look at states individually, four major categories emerge.</p><ol><li>Places where the first wave is ending: States in the Northeast and a few scattered elsewhere experienced large initial spikes but were able to mostly contain the virus and substantially brought down new infections. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/new-york-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">New York</a> is a good example of this.</li><li>Places still in the first wave: Several states in the South and West – see <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/texas-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Texas</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/california-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">California</a> – had some cases early on, but are now seeing massive surges with no sign of slowing down.</li><li>Places in between: Many states were hit early in the first wave, managed to slow it down, but are either at a plateau – like <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/north-dakota-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">North Dakota</a> – or are now seeing steep increases – like <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/oklahoma-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Oklahoma</a>.</li><li>Places experiencing local second waves: Looking only at a state level, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/hawaii-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Hawaii</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/montana-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Montana</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/alaska-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Alaska</a> could be said to be experiencing second waves. Each state experienced relatively small initial outbreaks and was able to reduce spread to single digits of daily new confirmed cases, but are now all seeing spikes again.</li></ol><p>The trends aren't surprising based on how states have been dealing with reopening. The virus will go wherever there are susceptible people and until the U.S. stops community spread across the entire country, the first wave isn't over.</p>
What Could a Second Wave Look Like?<p>It is possible – though at this point it seems unlikely – that the U.S. could control the virus before a vaccine is developed. If that happens, it would be time to start thinking about a second wave. The question of what it might look like depends in large part on everyone's actions.</p><p>The <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1086%2F592454" target="_blank">1918 flu pandemic</a> was characterized by a mild first wave in the winter of 1917-1918 that went away in summer. After restrictions were lifted, people very quickly went back to pre-pandemic life. But a second, deadlier strain came back in fall of 1918 and third in spring of 1919. In total, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/1918-pandemic-history.htm" target="_blank">more than 500 million people were infected</a> worldwide and upwards of <a href="https://theconversation.com/compare-the-flu-pandemic-of-1918-and-covid-19-with-caution-the-past-is-not-a-prediction-138895" target="_blank">50 million died</a> over the course of three waves.</p><p>It was the combination of a quick return to normal life and a mutation in the flu's genome that made it more deadly that led to the horrific second and third waves.</p><p>Thankfully, the coronavirus appears to be much more <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2020.104351" target="_blank">genetically stable</a> than the influenza virus, and thus less likely to mutate into a more deadly variant. That leaves human behavior as the main risk factor.</p><p>Until a <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-needs-to-go-right-to-get-a-coronavirus-vaccine-in-12-18-months-136816" target="_blank">vaccine or effective treatment is developed</a>, the tried-and-true public health measures of the last months – <a href="https://theconversation.com/this-simple-model-shows-the-importance-of-wearing-masks-and-social-distancing-140423" target="_blank">social distancing,</a> <a href="https://theconversation.com/masks-help-stop-the-spread-of-coronavirus-the-science-is-simple-and-im-one-of-100-experts-urging-governors-to-require-public-mask-wearing-138507" target="_blank">universal mask wearing</a>, frequent hand-washing and avoiding crowded indoor spaces – are the ways to stop the first wave and thwart a second one. And when there are surges like what is happening now in the U.S., further reopening plans need to be put on hold.</p>
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By Emma Charlton
Gluts of food left to rot as a consequence of coronavirus aren't just wasteful – they're also likely to damage the environment.
Methane on the Rise<p>Not only is this a tragic waste of food at a time when many are going hungry, it is also an <a href="https://donatedontdump.net/2014/07/07/the-effects-of-food-waste-on-the-environment-by-junemy-pantig/" target="_blank">environmental hazard</a> and could contribute to global warming. Landfill gas – <a href="https://www.epa.gov/lmop/basic-information-about-landfill-gas" target="_blank">roughly half methane and half carbon dioxide (CO2)</a> – is a natural byproduct of the decomposition of organic material.</p>
Food decay leads to production of greenhouse gases, methane and carbon dioxide. EPA<p>Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, 28 to <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/SYR_AR5_FINAL_full.pdf" target="_blank">36 times more effective than CO2 at trapping heat</a> in the atmosphere over a 100-year period, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.</p><p>"Many export-oriented producers produce volumes far too large for output to be absorbed in local markets, and thus <a href="https://unctad.org/en/pages/newsdetails.aspx?OriginalVersionID=2333" target="_blank">organic waste levels have mounted substantially</a>," says Robert Hamwey, Economic Affairs Officer at UN agency UNCTAD. "Because this waste is left to decay, levels of methane emissions, a greenhouse gas, from decaying produce are expected to rise sharply in the crisis and immediate post-crisis months."</p>
Food supply chains are easily disrupted. UN FAO<p>Dumping food was already a problem before the crisis. In America alone, <a href="https://www.refed.com/?sort=economic-value-per-ton" target="_blank">$218 billion is spent growing, processing, transporting</a> and disposing of food that is never eaten, estimates ReFED, a collection of business, non-profit and government leaders committed to reducing food waste. That's equivalent to around 1.3% of GDP.</p><p>Since the pandemic took hold, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-52267943" target="_blank">farmers are dumping 14 million liters</a> of milk each day because of disrupted supply routes, estimates Dairy Farmers of America. A chicken processor was forced to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/11/business/coronavirus-destroying-food.html" target="_blank">destroy 750,000 unhatched eggs a week</a>, according to the New York Times, which also cited an onion farmer letting most of his harvest decompose because he couldn't distribute or store them.</p>
Food Prices Collapsing<p>The excess has also seen prices collapse. The <a href="http://www.fao.org/worldfoodsituation/foodpricesindex/en/" target="_blank">FAO Food Price Index</a> (FFPI) averaged 162.5 points in May 2020, down 3.1 points from April and reaching the lowest monthly average since December 2018. The gauge has dropped for four consecutive months, and the latest decline reflects falling values of all the food commodities – dairy, meat, cereal, vegetable – except sugar, which rose for the first time in three months.</p><p>All this while the pandemic is exacerbating other global food trends.</p><p>"This year, some 49 million extra people may fall into extreme poverty due to the COVID-19 crisis," said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN. "The number of people who are acutely food or nutrition insecure will rapidly expand. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGhLKAbNDiY&feature=youtu.be" target="_blank">Even in countries with abundant food, we see risks of disruptions in the food supply chain</a>."</p>
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