Benefits and Barriers: Regenerative Grazing Systems in Argentina
Exploring real-world issues facing land stewards with the Regen Network Science Team
This past month, Head of Science at RND Dr. Gisel Booman, participated in a local gathering with producers and agronomists on a beautiful property called San Antonio. Located close to Ayacucho (Buenos Aires province, Argentina) the land is currently managed under holistic management and crop rotation. Dr. Booman is the main author of the CarbonPlus Grasslands Methodology, currently undergoing peer review for open source publication on Regen Network.
At San Antonio just a few years ago, the soil was mostly uncovered during the winter due to overgrazing and intense agriculture. But now since holistic management practices were implemented on the property, vegetation cover and signs of environmental health, from worms to soil structure, have become more evident and quantifiable with every agricultural cycle bringing more grassland native species.
The producers and agronomists present at the gathering all evidenced great ecological impact when implementing holistic management or when practicing Voisin Rational Grazing (VRG, or “PRV” from the Spanish acronym), including increases in the resilience and fast recovery of these ecosystems. It was wonderful to see first hand the positive ecological outcomes taking place throughout the landscape!
Florencia Trejo, the Agricultural Engineer managing San Antonio, explained in detail how after only one to three cycles of improved management the primary production of the grass increased notably, which translated directly into meat production increases. From her perspective, the big win for the producer is the increase in the secondary production, in this case, meat. This takes place based on the technology of processes instead of based on inputs, and does not require the need for big changes in infrastructure or an increase in production costs.
Additionally, quantifying carbon sequestration opens more long-term opportunities to generate extra revenues from this land management, while increasing the ecosystem health and farm sustainability. This scenario is a win-win for the land stewards that implement these regenerative practices.
After a delicious meal prepared by the host Ignacio Zimmermann and his family, some great conversations emerged with a lot of questions and feedback around carbon credits, monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV). What was clear within these conversations is that it is crucial to understand firsthand the needs and blockers that land stewards face before deciding to enroll in carbon credit programs.
Land stewards in Argentina face political and economic instability and are dealing with high inflation and very small farm operations margins, which increases the challenges to transition into regenerative management and committing to long-term carbon credit projects. These challenges are not unique to Argentinian producers and are likely representative of many other bioregions as well.
In the conversations, some relevant questions and conclusions followed, to name a few:
- There is an almost unanimous need from land stewards and project developers to get some reasonable pre-estimates of carbon sequestration potentials from their lands before even considering enrolling in carbon credits. Teams at Regen Network are working to solve this need via the Regen Lands UI project, which aims to create functionality for users to estimate potential outcomes, including carbon sequestration, when implementing regenerative practices in a given project area.
- The up-front costs of project implementation and data collection for MRV are often too high for land stewards and project developers to enroll their project, resulting in fewer crediting projects on-boarding. Early funding mechanisms could alleviate the high up-front costs. These mechanisms could include selling ex-ante credits based on predicted outcomes, selling credits via forward contracts, data collection grants, or direct investment from buyers.
- Legacy VCM standards place too much financial risk on land stewards! Though buffer pools serve as a tool to mitigate the general and project-specific risk factors, including the overall uncertainty risk in GHG estimates and uncontrollable losses, land stewards are still required to assume risk which is challenging when extreme climatic events are becoming more frequent. Solutions to these challenges are ongoing discussions that need to be addressed as a community. We will be addressing this actively by facilitating open conversations between our land stewards, buyers, curators, advisors, and project developers to find the right balance between liability, risk prevention and incentives.
- The 25 year permanence requirement is a long time period for producers. At RND, we are assessing how to improve these requirements so that it becomes more flexible for allowing transitioning onto practices that qualify as regenerative during the course of the 25 year project permanence term.
As the RND inc. team further develops the CarbonPlus Grasslands Methodology, we will continue to expand our knowledge by bringing the voices of real-world land stewards to the conversation. As a follow-up from this in-person gathering, Dr. Gisel Booman, was invited by Asociacion Grassfed Argentina to present the CarbonPlus Grasslands Methodology in La Rural, in Buenos Aires in July. Pablo Borelli from OVIS 21- Savory International, Professor Luiz Carlos Pinheiro Machado (international reference expert in VRG) and other participants from the private sector will present or attend the event, including our partners from Ruuts and Fenix, and the Carbon Group.
About Regen Network:
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