Regenerative Agriculture: A Collaborative Policy Discourse of Taiwan and Indonesia

Regenerative Agriculture: A Collaborative Policy Discourse of Taiwan and Indonesia

Published: 2023.11.10
Accepted: 2023.11.08
32
Deputy Secretary General
National Leadership Council Indonesian Farmers Union (HKTI)
Distinguished Professor
Department of Forestry, National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan
Consultant
Indonesian Agricultural Researcher’s Alliance (APPERTANI)

ABSTRACT

Agriculture is entering a transformative era, as the world population grows and demand for agricultural products increases rapidly. Although the Green Revolution has succeeded in feeding the rapidly growing human population, it has also exhausted the earth's soil and biodiversity and contributed to climate change. Exploration of agriculture practices are not sustainable, such as overuse of chemical fertilizers that has resulted in soil erosion, fertility reduction, increased use of pesticides and herbicides, air pollution and water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. The most important features of chemical fertilizers are long-term soil damage. They must be transformed by applying a series of practices known as regenerative agriculture which is an integrated approach to the agriculture ecosystem to preserve land and soil, biodiversity and improve ecosystem services within agricultural systems. It contributes to the achievement of food and nutritional security through economically viable and ecologically sustainable alternatives. This paper focuses on reviewing the collaborative regenerative agriculture policy to support sustainable food productivity. It requires a specific policy for implementing regenerative agriculture with a different set of agricultural approaches to maximize productivity while restoring soil and biodiversity. Various regenerative agricultural practices have been implemented in Taiwan and also in Indonesia, which are suitable for different regions or even for individual farms depending on the situation, although they are inspired by a common set of principles.

Keywords:  regenerative, agriculture, policy, Indonesia, Taiwan

INTRODUCTION

Agriculture is essential to sustain human life. This sector impacts society in many ways, including: supporting livelihoods through food, habitat, and jobs; providing raw materials for food and other products; and building strong economies through trade (Maryville University, 2023). Moreover, agriculture also provides opportunities for economic equity and helps people prosper around the world. It remains the second highest source of employment worldwide after the services sector with 26.7% of total employment (UN-FAO, 2020). Hence, the significant role of agriculture is outputs of society and business, from producing raw materials to contributing to the global supply chain and economic development.

When agricultural operations are sustainably managed, they can preserve and restore critical habitats, help protect watersheds, and improve soil health and water quality. But unsustainable practices have serious impacts on people and the environment. Therefore, the need for sustainable resource management is increasingly urgent. Demand for agricultural commodities is rising rapidly as the world's population grows. Agriculture’s deep connections to the world economy, human societies, and biodiversity make it one of the most important frontiers for conservation around the globe (WWF, 2023).

Agriculture is entering a transformative era. Although the green revolution has been successful in feeding a rapidly growing human population, it has also depleted the Earth’s soil and its biodiversity and contributed to climate change. These extractive practices are not sustainable. It must move quickly to transform agriculture by employing a suite of practices known as regenerative agriculture (Syngenta, 2023).

Regenerative agriculture has become a leading theme in sustainable agriculture practices. It describes a broad range of food production methods with two clear and complementary outcomes: producing high-quality food and improving surrounding natural ecosystems. More precisely, it borrows from pre-industrial forms of farming and is based on improving the relationship between soil, water and natural ecosystems. Regenerative agriculture focuses on improving soil health and fertility (decarbonizing soils), increasing biodiversity and qualitatively improving forest health, animal welfare, food nutrition and rural (especially smallholder) prosperity in a sustainable way. Agriculture and animal husbandry on the land can help each other create sustainable production capacity.

Regenerative agriculture is a more ecosystem-focused approach to agriculture than organic farms, with a high emphasis on soil health and attention to water management and fertilizer use. In a sustainable manner, farming on land can help each other create capacity instead of destroying or depleting it. As resource farming methods, soil in agricultural land is the foundation of any farm, and regenerative agriculture is concerned with the health of the soil and, surprisingly, the use of natural products and less human disturbance to lower CO2 on the planet.

The following are the main features of regenerative agriculture:

  1. Conservation tillage

Normal tillage causes soil changes and releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but through low-level tillage or fallow practices, physical disturbance to the soil can be minimized. As the land rests for more time, soil organic matter levels will increase, creating a healthier, more resilient environment for plant growth and keeping more and more carbon where it belongs.

  1. Diversity

Various microorganisms in the soil feed on carbohydrates, and the roots of different crops will release different carbohydrates. By increasing the diversity of crops on the farmland, it helps farmers have nutrient-rich soil, thereby increasing yields.

  1. Rotational cropping and cover crops

When the soil is exposed to the elements, the nutrients in the soil will be reduced, and the nutrients that crops need to grow will be lost. At the same time, growing the same crops in the same location can lead to nutrient deficiencies. However, by rotating crops and covering the soil, this problem can be solved.

  1. Reduce damage to the land

In addition to minimizing tillage, regenerative agriculture needs to be careful to avoid damage to the soil. The wrong use of chemical fertilizers and soil amendments can destroy the relationship between microorganisms and crops.

Almost every country is reliable on agriculture for a basic necessity, including Taiwan and Indonesia. Both countries generate agriculture as the backbone of their respective national economies. Taiwan and Indonesia continue to develop their agriculture, but this effort should be supported by its preservation, namely through the application of regenerative agriculture. This paper attempts to deliberate the collaborative policy discourse of agriculture in Taiwan and Indonesia. It discusses the concept, implementation, and policy on regenerative agriculture in both countries. 

CONCEPT OF REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE

Regenerative agriculture is an inclusive agroecosystem approach for conserving land and soil, biodiversity, and improving ecosystem services within farming systems. It focuses on the regeneration of living soil, improved micro hydrology, and conserving biodiversity at all levels while enhancing inputs use efficiency and ecosystem system services. The approach helps to achieve food and nutritional security with economically viable and ecologically sustainable options (UN-FAO, 2021).

Regenerative agriculture is an approach to farming and land management that aims to restore and improve the health of the soil, water, and ecosystems while also producing food and other agricultural products. It is a holistic and sustainable practice that focuses on creating resilient and regenerative systems rather than simply sustaining current agricultural practices. Danone (2021) defines regenerative agriculture, which includes organic production, as a set of farming practices that: (1) Protects soil, water, and biodiversity; (2) Acknowledges the key role of farmers and the positive impact of farming, while taking into account its economic viability; and (3) Respects animal welfare. Regenerative agriculture can be literally postulated based on several principles related to soil, water, biodiversity, and carbon (Table 1).

Regenerative agriculture emphasizes maintaining high soil organic matter content, minimizing tillage, increasing biodiversity, crop rotation, cover crops, green manures, compost, mulch, etc. However, the current organic farming methods, especially those focusing on commercial producers, may not be able to fully implement the aforementioned points.

The purpose of regenerative agriculture is to sequester carbon in soil and aboveground biomass to reverse the global accumulation of atmospheric carbon while increasing yields, improving resilience to climate instability, and improving the health and vitality of rural communities. The creation of this system is based on decades of global academic and applied scientific research results in organic farming, ecological agriculture, holistic management, agroforestry intercropping, and permaculture.

Four principles guide the practice of regenerative agriculture, applicable to different climates and regions: (1) Continuously improve the entire agricultural ecosystem, including soil, water and biodiversity; (2) Specific operations and overall decisions need to be set for specific circumstances to reflect the elements of individual farms; (3) Ensure and develop fair and interactive relationships among all stakeholders; and (4) Individuals, farms and communities must continue to grow and evolve in order to realize their inherent potential.

Regenerative agriculture is important because it addresses critical environmental challenges such as soil degradation, climate change, biodiversity loss, and water pollution. By adopting regenerative practices, farmers can promote the long-term sustainability of their operations while mitigating the negative impacts of agriculture on the environment and fostering healthier ecosystems. Recently, regenerative agriculture has received serious attention to addressing environmental and social challenges, such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, and food insecurity at least because of two reasons. First, regenerative agriculture can reduce the impact of climate change, increase soil fertility, maintain biodiversity, and reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Second, regenerative agriculture is not only seen as a way to meet current food needs but also as a solution to protect resources in the future (Diaguna and Sari, 2023).

The agricultural sector needs to transform, and regenerative agriculture can enable this transition through building up soil organic matter and nurturing its health. But it is not a one-size-fits-all solution; each unique context requires a different set of farming approaches to maximize productivity while restoring soils and biodiversity. Different regenerative practices suit different regions or even individual farms depending on the conditions, although they are covered by a common set of principles. Thus, regenerative farming practices include certain principles (Syngenta, 2023). They are: (1) Minimize soil disturbance (adopt no-till or reduced-till techniques); (2) Plants in the ground year round (plant cover crops between cash crops to prevent soil erosion and increase carbon inputs); (3) Diversify crops in time and space (expand crops in rotation and adopt intercropping); (4) Precision application of biological and chemical inputs (data-enabled precision placement of seeds, crop protection and crop nutrition); and (5) Integrate livestock when possible (crop residues and crop grazing manure, and compost inputs).

The overall goal of regenerative agriculture is to create agricultural systems that are self-renewing, environmentally friendly, and economically viable. By improving soil health, promoting biodiversity, conserving water, and reducing reliance on synthetic inputs, regenerative agriculture offers a more sustainable and resilient alternative to conventional farming practices. The ways that make it not only better for the people who consume it, but also for those working to produce it (Watt, 2017). However, regenerative agriculture may provide numerous benefits, including increased food security and ecosystem conservation; however, this approach may be much more expensive to farmers than conventional practices (Gresham et.al., 2021).

IMPLEMENTATION OF REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE

Regenerative agriculture practices are gaining interest and being implemented in various parts of the world, including Taiwan and Indonesia. In general, both countries equally view regenerative agriculture as a response to environmental challenges and a desire for sustainable farming systems. While there are similarities in the principles and goals of regenerative agriculture in these countries, there are also some unique factors and initiatives specific to each region.

Both Taiwan and Indonesia showcase examples of regenerative agriculture practices that address soil health, water management, biodiversity conservation, and community engagement. These initiatives contribute to more sustainable and resilient agricultural systems, highlighting the importance of adopting regenerative approaches to address environmental challenges and promote food security.

Taiwan

  1. Organic farming

Taiwan has a growing organic farming movement, with farmers adopting regenerative practices. Organic farming methods, including natural fertilizers, crop rotations, and biological pest control, are utilized to enhance soil health and reduce environmental impacts (refer to TMoA, 2018a).

  1. Agroforestry and soil conservation

Taiwan has initiatives in promoting agroforestry systems, particularly in hilly or mountainous regions, to address soil erosion issues. Agroforestry helps conserve soil, enhance biodiversity, and sequester carbon. Soil conservation practices such as contour plowing and terracing are also implemented (TMoA, 2016a).

  1. Indigenous farming practices 

Taiwan’s indigenous communities have traditionally practiced sustainable agriculture. Efforts are underway to recognize and revitalize indigenous farming knowledge, preserving cultural heritage and biodiversity while promoting regenerative practices (TMoA, 2010).

  1. Farmer cooperatives and education

Taiwan emphasizes farmer cooperatives and educational initiatives to support regenerative agriculture. These platforms facilitate knowledge sharing, training, and awareness-raising among farmers, promoting sustainable farming techniques and fostering community collaboration (TMoA, 2021).

Indonesia

  1. System of rice intensification (SRI)

SRI practices, which aim to enhance rice productivity while reducing water usage and chemical inputs, have gained popularity in Indonesia. SRI techniques, such as transplanting young seedlings, wider spacing, and alternate wetting and drying, have been adopted by farmers to improve soil health and water conservation.

  1. Permaculture and agroecology

Indonesia has seen the emergence of permaculture and agroecology movements that promote sustainable farming practices. These approaches focus on designing diverse and resilient farming systems that mimic natural ecosystems, integrate various crops and animals, and emphasize organic methods and biodiversity conservation.

  1. Community-based initiatives

Indonesia has witnessed the rise of community-based regenerative agriculture initiatives. These projects involve local communities collaborating to cultivate and manage land sustainably. Organic farming, agroforestry, and traditional knowledge are often integrated, contributing to improved soil fertility, water management, and community empowerment (Pranadji, 2004).

  1. Sustainable palm oil

Given Indonesia’s significant palm oil industry, efforts are being made to promote more sustainable practices. Regenerative agriculture approaches are being applied within the palm oil sector, emphasizing responsible land management, biodiversity conservation, and ecological restoration.

Even though regenerative agriculture has a potential role in addressing environmentally friendly circumstances, there are also several perspectives and challenges associated with its implementation. Table 2 summarizes some key perspectives and challenges of regenerative agriculture in Taiwan and Indonesia.

POLICY ON REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE

Regulation

Taiwan has several regulations to promote and facilitate regenerative agriculture practices. It aims to create an enabling environment for the adoption and scaling up of regenerative agriculture. Meanwhile, Indonesia does not have specific regulations exclusively dedicated to regenerative agriculture. However, there are existing regulations and policies related to organic farming, sustainable agriculture, and environmental conservation that indirectly support regenerative agriculture practices.

Taiwan

  1. Organic agriculture regulation

Providing the regulatory framework for organic farming, setting standards for organic production, processing (refer to TMoA, 2018a; TMoA, 2019), and labeling practices (refer to TMoA, 2004), aligned with regenerative principles.

  1. Soil and water conservation act

Addressing soil erosion and conservation measures that require farmers to adopt practices and promote soil and water conservation, such as contour plowing, terracing, and erosion control.

  1. Agrochemical management regulation

Governing the use of agrochemicals, such as pesticides and fertilizers to ensure proper and responsible use of agrochemicals considering environmental and health impacts as well as promoting reduced reliance on agrochemicals aligns with regenerative agriculture principles (refer to TMoA, 2018b).

  1. Environmental protection regulations

Addressing environmental impacts related to agricultural activities contribute to the overall sustainability and environmental soundness of farming practices; including regenerative agriculture (refer to TMoE, 2002).

  1. Agricultural good agricultural practice (GAP) certification

Promoting certification system that promotes sustainable and safe farming practices to encourage farmers to adopt environmentally friendly and sustainable practices (TMoA, 2016b).

Indonesia

  1. National Organic Certification
  2. regulations for organic farming based on the Minister of Agriculture Regulation Number 64/2013 on requirements for organic production, processing, and labeling that supports the adoption of sustainable and environmentally friendly farming practices (IMoA, 2013).
  3. Sustainable Agriculture Policies

Promoting align with regenerative principles such as the National Action Plan for Organic Agriculture (2011-2025) and the Conservation Agriculture Program (CAP) aim to enhance sustainable farming practices, soil health, and biodiversity conservation (IMoA, 2015).

  1. Environmental Regulations

Promoting sustainable land management practices such as the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and spatial planning regulations that consider the environmental impacts of agricultural activities and encourage environmentally friendly practices (GoI, 2021).

  1. Forest and Land Rehabilitation Programs

Implementing forest and land rehabilitation programs to restore degraded land, combat deforestation, and promote sustainable land use involving community participation and agroforestry approaches aligning with regenerative agriculture principles (IMoEF, 2021).

Policy support

Several policy supports have been established to promote and facilitate regenerative agriculture practices in Taiwan and Indonesia. It aims to create an enabling environment for the adoption and scaling up of regenerative agriculture. Taiwan has certain policy supports including: (1) Organic agriculture promotion act; (2) Soil and water conservation act; (3) Agroforestry promotion act; (4) Farmer field schools and extension services; (5) Agricultural research and development; (6) Agricultural Insurance programs; and (7) Market support and promotion. Moreover, in Indonesia it contains: (1) National organic certification; (2) Sustainable agriculture policies; (3) Environmental regulations; and (4) Forest and land rehabilitation programs.

Control policy measure

There is no specific control policy measure exclusively dedicated to regenerative agriculture in Taiwan and Indonesia. However, both countries have some existing control policy measures in line with sustainable agriculture, organic farming, and environmental conservation that indirectly support regenerative agriculture practices.

On the one hand, Taiwan has some relevant control policy measures on regenerative agriculture consist of: (1) Organic Agriculture Promotion Act; (2) Soil and Water Conservation Act; (3) Agrochemical Management Regulation; (4) Environmental Protection Regulations; and (5) Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) Certification. On the other hand, Indonesia has a subsidiary the control policy measure on regenerative agriculture comprises: (1) Organic farming certification; (2) Environmental regulations; (3) Integrated pest management (IPM); (4) Sustainable land management; and (5) Forest and land rehabilitation programs.

Policy discourse

Both Taiwan and Indonesia have recognized the importance of regenerative agriculture which can be incorporated in a collaborative policy discourse, although their approaches and priorities may differ due to its specific contexts. Both governments have several initiated policies and programs to promote regenerative agriculture practices (Table 3).

Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy

The New Southbound Policy is an integral part of Taiwan’s economic and trade strategy. As an essential member of the Asia and Asia-Pacific region, Taiwan must respond to the changing global conditions and trends towards regional unification by making appropriate adjustments. The New Southbound Policy has been adopted to identify new directions and driving forces in the new stage of Taiwan’s economic development, redefine Taiwan’s important role in Asia’s development, and create future value. At the same time, through this policy, Taiwan’s government hopes to initiate more comprehensive dialogue and negotiations with ASEAN and South Asian countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand to build close cooperation and jointly achieve regional development and prosperity.

One of the New Southbound Policy flagship programs is Regional Agricultural Development. The NSP Regional Agricultural Development program includes four significant objectives. First, enhance agricultural cooperation with New Southbound Policy partner countries and promote the export of Taiwan’s agricultural materials, production supplies, and technologies. Second, strengthen agricultural, human resources and bilateral technical exchanges, thus nurturing cross-border agricultural, human resources. Third, reinforce bilateral agricultural trade and investment relationships, and encourage (overseas) Taiwanese businesses to invest in agricultural industries in New Southbound Policy partner countries. Fourth, improve the regional food security by facilitating the establishment of crucial production bases (Andoko et. al., 2022).

Taiwan and Indonesia can collaborate on regenerative agriculture through various means. It includes: (1) Knowledge exchange and capacity building; (2) Research and development; (3) Technology transfer; (4) Policy coordination; (5) Market access and trade; and (6) Farmer-to-farmer networks. This collaboration can lead to regenerative agriculture based-sustainable farming practices, improved food security, enhanced rural livelihoods, and environmental conservation in both countries.

One of the strategic collaborative policies that can be implemented in supporting regenerative agriculture is the New Southbound Policy (NSP). The policy, launched by Taiwan, aims to strengthen economic, cultural, and agricultural ties with countries of Southeast Asian, South Asia, and Oceania, including Indonesia. This policy could include: (1) Knowledge and technology exchange; (2) Research and development collaborations; (3) Capacity building programs; (4) Market access and trade; and (5) Policy and institutional support. It requires coordination and partnership among government agencies, research institutions, farmer organizations, and other relevant stakeholders from both countries.

Even though NSP primarily focuses on areas such as trade, investment, education, and tourism, it can certainly incorporate regenerative agriculture of Taiwan and Indonesia (Table 4). By integrating regenerative agriculture into NSP, Taiwan and Indonesia can collectively work on that can contribute to the goals of the NSP while fostering ecological resilience, enhancing agricultural productivity, and promoting environmental sustainability.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Regenerative agriculture is important for several reasons, as it offers a holistic approach to farming and land management that not only sustains agricultural productivity but also addresses many pressing global challenges, including climate change, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, and food security, while promoting sustainable and resilient farming systems. It represents a shift towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural practices that benefit both ecosystems and human societies.

Regenerative agriculture is important for Taiwan and Indonesia, although the specific priorities and benefits may vary between the two countries. In both Taiwan and Indonesia, regenerative agriculture can offer solutions to environmental and agricultural challenges while promoting sustainable and resilient farming systems. However, the specific strategies and priorities for implementing regenerative practices will depend on each country's unique agricultural landscape, cultural contexts, and policy frameworks.

It is recommended that collaborating on regenerative agriculture between Taiwan and Indonesia under the New Southbound Policy (NSP) can be beneficial for both countries in terms of sustainable agricultural practices and environmental conservation. It can be implemented through certain areas. First, both countries can create a collaborative task force or working group comprising experts, policymakers, and representatives from relevant government agencies to coordinate and facilitate cooperation on regenerative agriculture. Second, exchange knowledge and expertise in regenerative agricultural practices through workshops, training programs, and technical assistance (Taiwan can offer its experience in advanced agricultural technologies, while Indonesia can share its expertise in tropical farming). Third, set up collaborative research that focus on regenerative agriculture to conduct long-term studies, develops best practices, and serve as hubs for innovations. Fourth, establish demonstration farms or pilot projects in Indonesia, where Taiwanese agricultural experts can work alongside local farmers to implement regenerative practices and showcase their benefits. Fifth, transfer technology and know-how related to regenerative agriculture, including the use of precision farming technologies, soil health monitoring, and sustainable irrigation techniques. Sixth, launch joint public awareness campaigns to educate consumers and farmers about the benefits of regenerative agriculture, emphasizing its positive impact on the environment, soil health, and food quality. Seventh, facilitate market access for regeneratively produced agricultural products from Indonesia to Taiwan. This may involve easing trade barriers, establishing certification standards for regenerative products, and promoting eco-friendly labels. Eighth, provide financial incentives and support mechanisms for farmers in both countries to adopt regenerative practices, such as subsidies, grants, and low-interest loans. Ninth, ensure that the policies and regulations in both countries are aligned with the goals of regenerative agriculture. This may involve reviewing and revising agricultural policies to incentivize sustainable and regenerative practices. By collaborating in these areas, Taiwan and Indonesia can not only advance regenerative agriculture practices but also strengthen their agricultural resilience, promote sustainable development, and contribute to food security and environmental protection in the region as part of the New Southbound Policy.

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