Robert Blasiak from the UNU Institute of Advanced Studies had the opportunity to interview Allan Savory during several bus rides in Nairobi. Savory is a Zimbabwean-born biologist, farmer, game rancher, politician and international consultant and co-founder of the Savory Institute. He is credited with developing the “holistic management” framework back in the 1960s and has been leading anti-desertification efforts in Africa for decades now using a rather unorthodox approach of increasing the number of livestock on grasslands rather than fencing them off for conservation.
Savory is having some pretty remarkable successes and his ideas are resonating — he gave the keynote speech at UNCCD’s Land Day last year as well as a recent TED address in Johannesburg, not to mention the awards that he and the Savory Institute have garnered.
Q: Rapid desertification is a scary prospect and many people point to livestock as a main driver of this process. Can you talk about holistic management and why you see livestock as part of the solution?
A: Livestock are not part of the solution but vital to reversing desertification. Let me explain. Desertification is the end result of the available rainfall becoming increasingly less effective. It is occurring to varying degrees in vast regions of the world where atmospheric humidity is erratic due to rainfall that is seasonal in nature. Throughout history people have associated desertification with overgrazing by too many livestock. This deep belief has assumed scientific validity and I too fell into that trap and published papers that today are embarrassing to me.
Let me explain why much vilified livestock are the only thing that today can reverse the desertification that is playing such a critical role in man-made droughts, floods, poverty, social breakdown, violence, cultural genocide and climate change.