Once considered a distant problem, climate change already poses significant challenges in the present. Severe weather conditions such as drought, extreme rainfall, and longer, hotter heat waves have a direct negative impact on farmers and small agricultural businesses in particular. Increasingly severe natural disasters can destroy entire harvests, leaving farmers without any reliable source of income. And changes in temperature and precipitation patterns allow pests and plant diseases to thrive at the expense of crops.
The poorest people, communities, and countries in the world contribute the least to climate change. Nevertheless, they are among the most vulnerable to its effects. With this devastating reality in mind, TechnoServe is applying human-centered regenerative business solutions to our work fighting poverty around the world, in order to support living incomes, cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce deforestation, and restore biodiversity.
What is regenerative business?
At TechnoServe, we consider regenerative business to be commercial activity that strengthens, rather than degrades, communities and natural ecosystems. In the long term, regenerative business allows people and markets to prosper.
It is important to note that regenerative business goes beyond “sustainability.” Sustainable practices such as switching to renewable energy and reducing waste and emissions are significant and valuable—but they are not enough. For a business to be regenerative, it must move beyond doing less harm and towards the active pursuit of doing more good.
In promoting regenerative business practices, TechnoServe focuses on three primary pillars: People, Climate, and Nature.
People: A Human-Focused Regenerative Approach
For an approach to be environmentally sustainable, it must also be economically sustainable.
People with low incomes are the most affected by climate change and environmental degradation–and so solutions should clearly benefit and make sense to them. When farmers can easily understand the financial benefit or business case for a solution, they are much more likely to implement it in the long term. Regenerative business solutions should therefore focus on helping small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs earn better incomes through more environment- and climate-friendly practices, as well as improve their resilience to climate-induced shocks.
Regenerative agriculture training, for instance, includes guidance that helps farmers grow crops in a way that supports improved soil health, such as composting, mulching, and planting cover crops. These practices actually improve the quality and yields of many crops in the long run, providing opportunities for price premiums–and giving farmers an incentive to continue this approach.
TechnoServe also helps farmers improve their resilience by helping them access goods and services that help them adapt to current climate threats. This may include drought-resistant seeds or access to weather information services. Income diversification can also be helpful for farmers to reduce their overall risk .
Finally, we support MSGBs (Micro Small and Growing Businesses) to improve their resilience and implement green business practices, and work with food processors to enhance the quality of their products, adopt circular business models, and reduce their environmental footprints.
Climate: Reducing Emissions, Improving Profits
Regenerative business practices must also help address climate change. One third of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the food system. Beyond just adapting to climate change, farmers can therefore also play an important role in its mitigation.
We teach small-scale producers how to reduce their carbon footprint in a way that still benefits them economically. These practices include:
- Sustainable intensification (increasing productivity on existing agricultural land, while providing positive social and environmental benefits)
- Appropriate use of synthetic pesticides
- Improving energy efficiency, e.g. installing solar panels
- Changing livestock diets to result in in less methane
- Silvopastoral systems
In Peru, for instance, TechnoServe’s work with coffee farmers resulted in an estimated 176,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide sequestered (i.e., captured and stored). The farmers themselves also achieved over $4 million in additional income from the project, encouraging them to continue these regenerative practices.
Nature: Reversing Nature Loss
A key component of regenerative business is reversing nature loss. To this end, TechnoServe works with our clients to protect natural habitats, increase agrobiodiversity, and improve water usage and quality. We help clients implement new strategies that reduce the need to expand production into protected areas for agriculture, sustainably increase yields from farmlands and seascapes, and reduce water pollution from post-harvest agricultural processing.
In Ethiopia, for instance, installing vetiver wetlands around coffee processing facilities cleans the resulting wastewater and enables local coffee farmers to improve the quality of their coffee through processing, without harming local water systems.
In Nicaragua, and other Latin American countries where dairy and beef make up a large portion of national exports, silvopastoral systems, which incorporate trees, grasses, and bushes into pasture land, help to reduce deforestation, encourage rotational grazing, and improve the overall health cattle ranchers’ land.
Around the world, the potential of regenerative business to improve lives and protect the planet is immense. Together with our partners, TechnoServe is helping millions of people implement regenerative business practices that allow them to sustainably increase their incomes.