by Chris Baggott

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by Chris Baggott

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Allan Savory, Holistic Management, Tyner Farm Pond

Today marks the birthday of a man who has been an invaluable friend and mentor to us at Tyner Pond Farm: Allan Savory. His profound insights into land management and ecological restoration have deeply influenced our farming practices, shaping the way we view and interact with the land. Our visits to his ranch in Zimbabwe have been transformative, offering us firsthand experiences of the principles he so passionately advocates. The wisdom he imparts isn’t just theoretical; it’s a lived experience, a tangible transformation of desert to thriving grasslands that we’ve had the privilege to witness. On this special day, we’d like to honor Allan and invite you all to delve into his groundbreaking vision. Join us in celebrating his legacy by watching his impactful 2013 TED talk. It’s not just a presentation; it’s a call to rethink, regenerate, and reimagine our relationship with the earth.  Click Here to Watch

Allan Savory, chris baggott, Tyner Pond Farm

Allan Savory and Chris Baggott in Zimbabwe

Who is Allan Savory?

Allan Savory is a Zimbabwean ecologist, farmer, and environmentalist who developed the holistic management approach for livestock and land management. His message revolves around the notion that when managed correctly, ruminant animals (like cattle, sheep, and goats) can play a pivotal role in restoring grassland health and combating desertification.  some key points of his message are:

  1. Desertification and Climate Change: Savory has argued that much of the world’s grasslands are turning into desert-like environments, leading to reduced biodiversity, loss of soil, and increased carbon release into the atmosphere. He attributes this, in part, to modern land management practices and the removal of large herds of wild grazing animals from these landscapes.
  2. Nature’s Grazing Patterns: In nature, large herds of wild animals, like buffalo or antelope, often graze in concentrated groups. They do this for protection against predators. This behavior results in intense grazing followed by long rest periods, which can help stimulate grass growth and promote a healthy ecosystem.
  3. Mimicking Nature with Livestock: Savory suggests that we can use livestock to mimic these natural grazing patterns. By moving herds in a planned, holistic manner, they can graze an area intensively for a short time and then move on, allowing the land to recover. This kind of management can break up the soil’s surface, help in seed germination, and promote healthy grass growth.
  4. Restoring the Carbon Cycle: Healthy grasslands can absorb and store vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. By restoring grasslands through holistic management, Savory argues that we can combat climate change by sequestering carbon and also enhance local water cycles.
  5. Holistic Approach: Beyond just grazing, Savory’s holistic management encompasses a broader decision-making framework that considers the ecological, economic, and social aspects of land management.

Allan’s message is that by using a holistic approach to land and livestock management, we can restore degraded landscapes, improve biodiversity, and even restore natural Carbon and Water Cycles.

Allan Savory, Amy Baggott, Tyner Pond Farm, Holistic Management

Allan Savory & Amy Baggott Discussing the Water Cycle

 

Allan Savory believes desertification is detrimental for several reasons:

  • Loss of Biodiversity: Desertification leads to the decline or loss of plant species which, in turn, affects the animal species that depend on them. This results in a significant reduction in biodiversity. A loss of biodiversity can compromise ecosystem resilience, making it more susceptible to disturbances and less able to provide essential ecosystem services.
  • Reduced Agricultural Productivity: Desertified areas have poor soil health, leading to reduced agricultural yields. This can have dire implications for local communities who rely on the land for their food and livelihood. It can result in food insecurity, poverty, and even famines in extreme cases.
  • Water Scarcity: Desertification can alter the local water cycle. It can lead to reduced groundwater levels and the drying up of rivers and lakes. This can result in water scarcity for local communities, affecting both human populations and wildlife.
  • Climate Exacerbation: Healthy grasslands and soils act as carbon sinks, absorbing more carbon than they release. Desertified areas, on the other hand, can become sources of carbon emissions, exacerbating the global problem of heat in the atmosphere.
  • Displacement of Populations: As areas become desertified and unable to support their populations, it can lead to human migrations. These climate refugees might move to other areas, leading to potential conflicts over resources in those regions.
  • Economic Implications: Desertification can have negative economic repercussions, especially for communities that rely on agriculture. The loss of productive land can lead to reduced income, unemployment, and increased dependence on aid.
  • Altered Landscapes: The transformation of once-productive landscapes into barren wastelands can have aesthetic, cultural, and spiritual implications for the people who once lived there.
  • Feedback Loops: Desertification can create a feedback loop where the loss of vegetation exposes the soil to erosion by wind and water. This erosion can further reduce the land’s fertility, leading to even less vegetation in the future and accelerating the process of desertification.

For Alan Savory, the process of desertification isn’t just an ecological issue but one that encompasses social, economic, and political dimensions. His holistic management approach seeks to address these multifaceted challenges by using livestock as a tool to regenerate landscapes and reverse desertification.

What Causes Desertification?

world Wide Desertification Map, Holistic Management, Tyner Pond farm, Allan Savory

Map Showing Advancing Global Desertification

Allan Savory says that the primary causes of desertification are rooted in human land management decisions. According to him, the following are significant contributors to desertification:

  • Overgrazing: While overgrazing is often recognized as a cause of desertification, Savory’s perspective is nuanced. He acknowledges that overgrazing by livestock can be harmful, but he emphasizes that the problem isn’t the presence of livestock itself. Instead, it’s the duration that animals remain on a particular patch of land. When animals stay too long in one area, they can prevent the recovery of grasses and plants, which in turn degrades the soil and contributes to desertification.
  • Insufficient Grazing: Contrary to what one might think, Savory also points out that insufficient grazing can contribute to desertification. In many natural ecosystems, herds of large herbivores play a crucial role in maintaining grassland health by periodically grazing, trampling dead plant material, and fertilizing the soil with their dung. When these animals are removed or their numbers significantly reduced, grasslands can become dominated by dead plant material, which inhibits new growth and can create a desertifying cycle.
  • Inappropriate Land Management Practices: Plowing, monoculture farming, and the removal of trees and shrubs can degrade soil quality, reduce its ability to retain water, and lead to erosion—all of which can contribute to desertification.
  • Reduction or Elimination of Natural Grazing Herds: Historically, massive herds of herbivores moved across landscapes, grazing intensively but briefly and then moving on. Modern land management and hunting practices have often disrupted these patterns, leading to both overgrazing in some areas and undergrazing in others.

Savory’s central argument is that by mimicking nature’s historical grazing patterns through a method called “holistic planned grazing” we can use livestock as a tool to regenerate degraded land and combat desertification. This involves moving herds in a strategic manner, allowing areas to be intensively grazed for short periods and then letting them recover for longer durations.  This is Exactly what we do here at Tyner Pond Farm.

In What Ways Does Holistic Grazing Emulate Nature to Revive Our Landscape?

Allan Savory, Holistic Management, Regenerative Farm, Tyner Pond farm

Allan Explaining Holistic Managed Grazing

Allan Savory’s theory of holistic managed grazing is rooted in the idea of mimicking the natural behavior of wild herds to restore degraded grasslands and combat desertification. Here’s how he suggests that this approach mirrors nature and has the potential to rejuvenate the earth:

  • Natural Grazing Patterns: Historically, vast herds of wild animals, like buffalo, wildebeest, or antelope, moved across grasslands in dense groups. Their behavior was influenced by the need for protection from predators. This natural pattern resulted in intense but brief periods of grazing in one area, followed by extended periods where the grasslands were left to recover.
  • Trampling & Soil Aeration: The concentrated movement of large herds tramples down dead plant material, ensuring it makes contact with the soil. This helps incorporate organic matter into the ground, improving soil health and promoting decomposition. The hooves of these animals also naturally aerate the soil, encouraging the growth of various plant species.
  • Natural Fertilization: The dung and urine from grazing animals enrich the soil, acting as natural fertilizers. This aids in improving soil fertility, which is crucial for the growth of healthy grasslands.
  • Breaking the Desertification Cycle: Holistic managed grazing, by mimicking these natural behaviors, aims to break the cycle of desertification. By moving livestock in a planned manner to mimic the movement of wild herds, areas are grazed intensively for short durations and then allowed ample recovery time. This approach can help restore soil health, promote the growth of perennial grasses, and increase biodiversity.
  • Improving the Carbon Cycle: Healthy grasslands can act as significant carbon sinks, absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they release. As holistic managed grazing restores grasslands, it enhances their potential to sequester carbon, thereby playing a role in mitigating climate change.
  • Restoration of Water Cycles: Healthy soils, with abundant organic matter, can retain more water. By rejuvenating the soil, holistic grazing can improve local water cycles, increasing water availability and reducing the impact of droughts.
  • Enhancing Biodiversity: By creating a dynamic environment where land is both grazed and left to rest, different plant and animal species can thrive. This dynamic system can lead to an increase in biodiversity, benefiting the entire ecosystem.

To summarize, Allan Savory’s holistic managed grazing approach seeks to use livestock as a tool to replicate the natural, regenerative patterns observed in wild herbivore herds. By doing so, he believes we can reverse land degradation, improve biodiversity, and address broader environmental challenges like climate change.

Allan Savory, Holistic Management, Reversing Desertification

One of many Dry Season Water Holes…A mile from here it is desert

Alan Savory has changed the game for many of us in land management. His method isn’t just a technique—it’s a whole new way of thinking about our relationship with the land. He’s shown us how to work with nature instead of against it, and the results speak for themselves. Grasslands are healthier, soils are richer, and our farms are more sustainable because of his insights. Every person who values clean air, water, and healthy food benefits from his wisdom, whether they realize it or not. As a farmer and someone who’s learned so much from Alan, I believe we all owe him a big thank you. His work is ensuring a better, greener future for everyone.

 

Fresh, Quality, Pasture-Raised.

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