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Holistic Management

“First conceived and developed by Rhodesian biologist, game ranger, politician, farmer, and rancher, Allan Savory, over 40 years ago, Holistic Management is driven by a decision making framework which ensures economic, ecological, and social soundness, simultaneously, both short and long term.”  –  from the website of the Savory Institute

Holistic Management is actually two frameworks for decision-making – on the general level it can be applied to anything being managed, from a household to an office to a municipality; however, much of Savory’s work applies specifically to land management.

The general “Holistic Management Model” includes eight components:

  • Identifying the whole under management
  • Forming the holistic goal, the driving force in holistic management, used to guide every significant decision
  • Understanding ecosystem processes
  • Use of: specific tools for managing ecosystem processes; testing guidelines for economic, environmental, and social soundness relative to the holistic goal; a number of management guidelines that reflect years of experience in a variety of situations; a set of planning procedures; and a feedback loop – in holistic management, “plan” means “plan–monitor–control–re-plan”.

Savory’s work on land management has led him to conclude that: 1) modern agriculture is a major cause leading us toward rapid climate change; 2) holistically managed grazing animals can cure the climate crisis – Allan Savory – Keeping Cattle: cause or cure for climate crisis? from Feasta on Vimeo.

Here’s more info about holistic land management – from the website of the Savory Institute:

“Savory articulated four key insights which are pivotal to our understanding of the natural world —insights which underpin the Holistic Management decision making framework.  Land, grazing, and financial planning procedures complement the framework, enabling on-the-ground managers to effectively handle the inherent complexity of stewarding natural ‘wholes’.

“Our core competency in Holistic Management is the ecologically regenerative, economically viable, and socially sound management of the world’s grasslands, rangelands, and savannas. These environments comprise two thirds of the planet’s surface area. Their degradation has been ongoing since the first hominids discovered the tool of fire, and has accelerated in concert with the expansion of the human population (with its associated eradication of most of the world’s grazing and browsing megafauna, the subsequent replacement with fewer numbers of more sedentary, domesticated livestock, and soil degrading cropping practices). This degradation is characterized by a loss of soil cover (comprised of both living plants and decaying plant litter), which leads to less effective water and mineral/nutrient cycling, poorer solar energy flow, and reduced biodiversity. This all leads to the loss of previously sequestered soil carbon (a major source of our existing atmospheric CO2 load), severely degraded land or deserts, and the loss of food production capacity.

“In a natural context, constantly moving, healthy herds of large herbivores, interacting with their associated predators, create the disturbance (grazing and animal impact) necessary to maintain healthy ecosystem processes. Their presence ensures the continuation of the carbon cycle (with the all-important step of ‘decay’ accelerated by the microbes in their digestive tracts), high levels of plant diversity, and a covered soil surface. Because the animals are constantly moving to new grazing, plants (between episodes of heavy grazing) have the chance to fully recover their above-ground leaf area and restore carbohydrate reserves in their crowns, roots, and stem bases. Holistic Management’s expertise is in re-creating/imitating these natural grazing patterns with domestic livestock, and regenerating the land in the process.

“After nearly fifty years of practice, we now have successful Holistic Management practitioners spread across the globe, from Canada to the tip of Patagonia, and from Zimbabwe to Australia to Montana.”