DOEN Foundation supports reNature with new investment
Published on: July 23, 2020
The Netherlands-based DOEN Foundation (Stichting DOEN) is fostering our efforts to make agroforestry mainstream with financial support of €250,000. Through the support, DOEN Foundation has committed to aid reNature in transforming agriculture to become truly regenerative.
With the grant, we’ll be able to enhance the foundation’s work capacity to respond to the increasing demand for regenerative agroforestry worldwide. It will greatly aid us in continuing to initiate regenerative agriculture projects worldwide and to become a thought leader in the field of agricultural sustainability.
“This support gives us an enormous boost; we can grow in capacity and realise more projects worldwide.”Marco de Boer, co-founder reNature.
Currently we are working on projects in Kenya (moringa), Indonesia (white pepper), Brazil (coffee, cotton, and livestock) and Mexico (citrus) where we are working to improve these systems by means of integrating new species in a smart farm design and implementation plan. Now, we’re looking forward to starting new projects: whether it’s 1 hectare or several thousand hectares, we are open for business. As such, parties interested in the work of reNature include both small farmers and multinationals, where a key strategy is to connect those for the benefit of both.
A flying start
In 2018, Marco de Boer (the Netherlands) and Felipe Villela (Brazil) started the reNature foundation with the aim to make agroforestry mainstream. Due to the growing demand for implementation, they founded the company reNature at the end of 2019 for which they received the grant from the DOEN Foundation. With this amount, the international team of experts from Brazil, Portugal, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and the USA will double in the coming year. In addition to the DOEN grant, Nestlé recently awarded reNature with a prize of € 20,000 for biodiversity action.
“DOEN supports frontrunners who can make a lasting change. reNature has already proven to inspire many people. With our support, we enable them to make a difference.”Maarten Derksen, Team Manager at DOEN Foundation
Regenerative and nature-inclusive agriculture
reNature is commissioned to develop nature-inclusive agricultural systems based on regenerative agroforestry principles in which nature and agriculture work together instead of competing with each other.
By mimicking how natural systems work in our agricultural systems – learning from nature’s self-enhancing and resilient functioning – we can generate a range of holistic benefits. Agroforestry, integrating multifunctional trees with crops or livestock, can positively impact the production of the target crop or livestock species, generate secondary income streams through diversification, and simultaneously ensure environmental protection and restoration. We are all about generating benefits for people and nature – at the same time, in the same space.
Regenerative agroforestry is different from organic agriculture, and it’s also different from food forests. You could say it’s somewhere in between.
Whilst organic agriculture can still allow a monoculture of crops and it often focussed on using less pesticides, less fertiliser, less antibiotics – in other words, not making things worse (you could call this ‘sustainable’, in the most literal sense of the word), regenerative agroforestry builds upon the strength that comes with the diversity of systems and if focussed on building soil, capturing the use of functional biodiversity, and making agriculture resilient to disturbances such as climate change – in other words making things better (this is what we call ‘regenerative’).
Whilst food forests also include this diversity and regenerative aspect, the more simple-to-manage regenerative agroforestry allows farmers to have planting arrangements that are not too disruptive to their current systems, that facilitate efficient harvesting, and enable economies of scale.
Regenerative agriculture and agroforestry positively affect both nature and the farmer’s wallet in three core ways:
- Environmental impact: increase in soil carbon, biodiversity, water storage and forest and wildlife conservation.
- Social impact: food security and sovereignty, motivating the next generation of farmers, rural development and empowerment of women.
- Economic impact: no external input costs for fertilisers and pesticides, different income streams as a result of diversification, and potentially increasing yields per hectare.
A step-by-step agricultural transition
For DOEN, an important factor in the decision to support reNature was reNature’s stepwise approach for stimulating an agricultural transition. reNature first develops a Model Farm of some hectares together with an expert and a local partner (often a farmers cooperative). On this example farm, the farmers can see for themselves in real life how the system is beneficial. After this, the farm is scaled up to a Model School where local farmers receive training in this farming method.
The transition is complete when financial institutions, and buyers from the food chain step in to help the local farmers and cooperatives in the transition to regenerative agriculture. An example of this is a pilot with Verstegen spices BV in which the first agroforestry white pepper plantation was planted in Indonesia last year.
Starting in the Netherlands
Although founded in the Netherlands, we do not yet have an ongoing local project. reNature is currently in the process of exploring project opportunities for large-scale regenerative dairy farming in the Netherlands. The project requires some time, since an important barrier to implementation is the strictness of zoning plans in the Netherlands and the rigid legislation regarding the planting and management of trees on agricultural land. reNature is therefore advocating to authorities to adjust legislation to foster the scaling of agroforestry in the Netherlands.