Modern Food Systems: Role of Digital and Regenerative Agriculture

Agricultural practices and food systems play a major role in many pressing challenges, including climate change, nutritional security, and ensuring sustainable livelihoods for Africa’s rapidly growing population.

Many long-standing agricultural practices compete with natural environments, deteriorate soils and habitats, reduce biodiversity, and affect water supply and quality–much of which has led to degradation of Africa’s ecosystem. In an attempt to revitalize critical food systems that will shape our future, some farmers have begun integrating a practice called regenerative agriculture.

Regenerative agriculture uses zero tillage, cover crops and mulch, and crop biodiversity, and integrates livestock and agroforestry practices to restore degraded soils and increase biodiversity above and below the soil. Regenerative agriculture even has a hidden superpower. It can act as an instrument to combat climate change, especially greenhouse emissions. Soil holds more than twice the amount of carbon that the atmosphere holds. When we take carbon from the atmosphere and infuse it into soil through the power of plant photosynthesis, we not only mitigate climate change’s effects, but actually improve soil health over time.

Regenerative agriculture may look like…

  • Direct seeding of crops without soil disturbance to improve soil biology and structure while retaining soil carbon. 
  • Integrating livestock to feed on crop residues, recycle nutrients and improve soil fertility while diversifying farm incomes.
  • Introducing crop varieties that are more resilient to increased weather variability due to climate change.
  • Modern seed systems that ensure the right varieties in a community are promoted and available. 
  • Diversifying diets in service of better nutrition tol fuel the minds of the population.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is positioned to be at the vanguard of this agricultural revolution. AGRA and DevGlobal Partners have joined forces to accelerate adoption of key innovations at country and regional levels. Through our partnership, we are tackling questions like:

  • How can we rebuild the health and resilience of agricultural ecosystems?
  • How can we translate agricultural best practices into realities for millions of households in Africa?
  • How can we harness the power of scientific knowledge to improve incomes, food security and equitable opportunities for women and youth?

To understand Africa’s unique agricultural landscape, we inventoried current sustainable farming interventions across the continent, reviewed relevant policies and regulations, identified measurable performance indicators, and created a blueprint for implementation of regenerative agriculture practices. 

We also interviewed key informants such as farmers, development banks, policymakers and agro input providers. We found that early adopters of regenerative agriculture practices were seeing benefits after two years in the form of increased income, greater resilience to drought, and empowerment to test new technologies with support from village-based advisors who make important contributions by exposing local farmers to new practices and appropriate inputs.

Seed systems are a key entry point to improved farm productivity and profitability. AGRA has made significant progress with partners to strengthen the entire value chain of seed systems–from training the next generation of crop breeders, to investing in seed companies and agro dealers, to producing and disseminating seeds, to policy reforms and exploring financial services that support seed production in Africa. DevGlobal Partners and AGRA are developing knowledge products to support a new Center of Excellence for Seed Systems in Africa (CESSA) hosted by AGRA. This centralized hub will feature knowledge products, tools and models that support seed producers across Africa. By aggregating and distilling these complex concepts into a tangible, accessible format, this repository will unlock actionable insights for a wide range of actors along the seed value chain. These insights will ensure farmer access to quality, locally-adapted seed varieties that empower farmers to increase productivity and incomes, and deliver better nutrition to consumers.

We have optimism that the equitable agricultural transformation doesn’t need decades to become a reality. Rapid change can happen with the right understanding and buy-in, technical support, market incentives, policies, and enabling environment. We just need to convene the coalition of aligned and willing partners to make it real. Together, we can create a movement towards not just sustainable, but resilient and regenerative food systems for current and future generations.


Dr. David Bergvinson, Senior Advisor with DevAfrique and DevGlobal, brings more than 30 years in global development and agricultural development. Dr. Bergvinson’s previous roles include Chief Science Officer for a weather analytics company called aWhere, Director General at ICRISAT, and Senior Program Officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he launched the Digital Agriculture portfolio at the request of Bill Gates in 2011. Dr. Bergvinson has employed human-centered design throughout his career that, together with partners, reached over 30 million farm families in emerging economies in service of higher farm incomes, improved nutrition, and resilience to climate change. Dr. Bergvinson has a PhD in Biology and Masters of Pest Management, Forest Entomology.

Ram Kiran Dhulipala, DevIndia Advisor, is a senior scientist with the International Livestock Research Institute, where he leads development and deployment of agriculture data hubs in Kenya, Zambia, and Senegal. He is also responsible for private sector engagement to scale climate-informed advisory services for smallholder farming and livestock systems. Prior to this role, Ram was the Cluster Leader of Digital Agriculture at ICRISAT. Ram is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Reading, where he drives action research on use of the latest digital technologies in agriculture. Ram is based in Nairobi, Kenya and has work responsibilities spanning Asia, West and Central Africa. 

Ruthie Berk, Editor, is an experienced community engagement professional with a demonstrated history of applying sustainable solutions to local and global challenges. Ruthie is skilled in program and project management, event planning, communications and social impact investments. Before joining DevGlobal, Ruthie was a Community Investor at Boeing where she led a team of philanthropic program managers representing 30 countries and regions. Ruthie built and shaped global partnerships at the intersections of economic mobility and community wellbeing. Ruthie also contributes to the Global Welfare Association’s efforts to create and sustain a culture of respect for human rights in Cameroon, and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) endeavors to mobilize women entrepreneurs in developing countries through innovative learning solutions.