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As part of a 16-month regenerative agriculture (RA) project in Embu and Makueni counties in Kenya, IIRR’s role was to drive the learning agenda surrounding RA.


RA refers to those farming and grazing practices that focus on regenerating top-soil, allowing farmers to enhance yields and climate resilience.

The project aimed to strengthen food security and community resilience through the Village-Based Advisor (VBA) model.

VBAs are lead farmers who were trained in RA so that they could share their knowledge and skills with the other farmers in their community.

The VBAs also engage in liaison and mobilization, linking communities to development organisations, coordinating with market actors to aggregate farming input demand and output sales, training farmers in new technologies, acting as role models for natural resource management, and facilitating community development.

IIRR’s work has involved incorporating data collection methods into the RA project, to create an evidence base for its effectiveness.

Benefits of RA practices:

Crop rotation leads to reduced pests and improved soil fertility if nitrogen-fixing crops are rotated with nitrogen-demanding crops.
Agroforestry optimizes soil pH, enhances yields, and offers a canopy of vegetative leaves for moisture retention.
Cover-cropping sees excess soil nutrients recycled, soil erosion reduced, pollinator habitats provided, and carbon sequestered from the atmosphere.
The project demonstrated how RA is superior to conventional agricultural systems. Soil quality is restored, enhancing crop yields.
Operating costs are reduced, farmers’ incomes are diversified, nutrition needs are met, and climate resilience is promoted. 

Business Model for the VBAs

The VBAs create, deliver, and capture value within their enterprise activities. The VBAs serve farmers, input dealers, and produce buyers, from all of whom they earn commission. For each of those clients, the VBAs have value propositions.

The farmers get access to high quality inputs at cheaper prices, plus innovations and production technologies and can have easy access to inputs at their door, plus access to aggregation of farm produce services.

The input dealers get demand aggregated and the effectiveness of their products demonstrated.

The buyers get aggregated high-quality produce in the right quantities.  

Strong partnerships are needed. Partnerships with research organisations helped in identification of climate resilience varieties and seed donations for VBA demonstration plots. Private sector partnerships and introduction of market linkages and aggregation centres for farm produce was key motivator for farmers to take up RA practices. Furthermore, private public partnerships allow funding gaps to be bridged.

IIRR recommendations:

Government departments and policy-makers need to mainstream RA extension in their policy frameworks and incentivize RA adoption through lowering tax rates on RA equipment and climate resilience inputs.  

Partners such as NGOs, research institutions, and tertiary academic institutions have key roles to play too. They should invest in long term research sites such that an RA knowledge base can continually grow and evolve. 

Farmers should engage in their local organisations, study groups, and neighbouring farms, in order to share information and skills. Farmer-to-farmer learning is key, especially when farmers share interests or ecological zones.  

VBAs should formalize their engagements with the private sector and pursue business training opportunities to enhance their financial and entrepreneurial skills.