What Prevents the Adoption of Regenerative Agriculture and What Can We Do about It? Lessons and Narratives from a Participatory Modelling Exercise in Australia

Daniel C. Kenny, Juan Castilla-Rho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Regenerative agriculture (RegenAg) can help landholders attune their agricultural practices to the natural design of the earth’s cycles and support systems. The adoption of RegenAg, however, hinges not only on a good understanding of biophysical processes but perhaps more importantly on deep-seated values and beliefs which can become an obstacle for triggering widespread transitions towards synergistic relationships with the land. We designed and facilitated a Participatory Modelling exercise with RegenAg stakeholders in Australia—the aim was to provide a blueprint of how challenges and opportunities could be collaboratively explored in alignment with landholders’ personal views and perspectives. Fuzzy Cognitive Maps (FCM) were used to unpack and formalise landholder perspectives into a semi-quantitative shared ‘mental model’ of the barriers and enablers for adoption of RegenAg practices and to subsequently identify actions that might close the gap between the two. Five dominant narratives which encode the key drivers and pain points in the system were identified and extracted from the FCM as a way to promote the internalisation of outcomes and lessons from the engagement. The Participatory Modelling exercise revealed some of the key drivers of RegenAg in Australia, highlighting the complex forces at work and the need for coordinated actions at the institutional, social, and individual levels, across long timescales (decades). Such actions are necessary for RegenAg to play a greater role in local and regional economies and to embed balancing relationships within systems currently reliant on conventional agriculture with few internal incentives to change. Our methods and findings are relevant not only for those seeking to promote the adoption of RegenAg in Australia but also for governments and agriculturalists seeking to take a behaviorally attuned stance to engage with landholders on issues of sustainable and resilient agriculture. More broadly, the participatory process reported here demonstrates the use of bespoke virtual elicitation methods that were designed to collaborate with stakeholders under COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1383
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2022

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