Sustainability Pathways

Holistic Management using Holistic Planned Grazing

Grassland type Natural
Name of practice Holistic Management using Holistic Planned Grazing
Name of main actor Savory Institute, Africa Centre for Holistic Management
Type of actor(s) Farmers, Pastoralists, NGOs, Communities
Location Zimbabwe
Agro-ecological region Tropical
Sustainability dimension involved Governance, Environmental, Economic, Social
Sustainability sub-themes Holistic Management, Atmosphere, Water, Land, Biodiversity, Materials and Energy, Animal Welfare, Investment, Decent Livelihood, Cultural Development
Year of implementation 1994
Description of best practice Across the globe, seasonal humidity grasslands are being threatened by anthropogenic desertification. Desertification underlies increasing droughts and floods, is a driver of climate change and imposes huge social and economic costs on those who depend on grasslands for their livelihoods. Many rural communities worldwide are afflicted by problems associated with desertification: drying rivers and wells, poverty, spread of infectious diseases, persistent crop-failures, social violence and an exodus of young people. The Savory Institute promotes large-scale restoration of the world’s grasslands through the practices of Holistic Management and Holistic Planned Grazing. The principles of Holistic Management emphasize the interconnections between the ecosystem processes that sustain healthy grasslands: the water cycle, nutrient cycles, energy flows, biodiversity and community dynamics. A holistic approach to land management nurtures each of these processes, while encompassing social/cultural, economic and environmental perspectives in decision making. By addressing the full complexity of the problem, Holistic Management has proven successful in reversing desertification, regenerating degraded land and empowering communities to fulfill their present and future needs. Holistic Planned Grazing is a key practice used to restore degraded grasslands. Based on scientific and local/traditional knowledge, Holistic Planned Grazing re-establishes the evolutionary relationship between grazing animals and their grassland habitats. Livestock are bunched or herded during the day following a holistic plan and protected at night using temporary enclosures. The livestock have a brief but intense impact on the land – breaking up hard ground with their hooves, allowing air and water to penetrate, and fertilizing the soil with dung and urine. Grass is trampled down, covering the soil and making it less prone to the drying effects of sun and wind. As a result, soil surface evaporation is greatly restricted and available rainfall becomes more effective. Plants are carefully observed, overgrazing of plants is unlikely to happen given the short permanence of animals in any one area, at which point livestock are moved on and the land and plants are allowed to fully recover. Holistic Planned Grazing recognizes the importance of this periodic pattern of disturbance in maintaining ecosystem health. Livestock are used to mimic the role that large herds of wild herbivores once played, constantly moving to avoid predators and search for a varied diet.
Outcomes and impacts The Africa Centre for Holistic Management (ACHM), the first of many Savory affiliated Hubs, provides an illustration of the success that Holistic Management and Holistic Planned Grazing can achieve in reversing degradation and desertification. ACHM is a local non-profit NGO, based at Dimbangombe Ranch, Zimbabwe. Between 2001 and 2009, the application of Holistic Management practices at Dimbangombe resulted in a 31% decrease in bare ground and 51% increase in litter cover (improving the effectiveness of rainfall), 12% increase in perennial grass plants and 17% decrease in soil movement. There is further evidence that less silt in the river has improved river flow. Additionally, Dimbangombe operates as a demonstration and learning site for Southern Africa. Village-based trainers from ACHM are empowering other communities by teaching people how to restore degraded grasslands and water catchments, enhance food and water security and improve human livelihoods using Holistic Management practices. ACHM is part of a global network of locally led and managed Savory Institute Hubs, on all six habitable continents, where people and organizations can collaborate and practice Holistic Management. A number of factors have contributed to the success of Holistic Management and Holistic Planned Grazing. The practices are cost-effective, highly scalable and are based on technology and management procedures that are culturally relevant and adaptable to a range of local conditions. Moreover, restoring grasslands using Holistic Management takes advantage of a number of synergies. As the health of the environment is enhanced, productivity and profitability increase, improving people’s livelihoods without compromising future viability of the resource base. Healthy grasslands provide multiple ecosystems services that are beneficial to society. These include a significant potential as a terrestrial sink for atmospheric carbon, helping to mitigate climate change. References: Malmberg, A. (2012) “Africa Centre for Holistic Management Case Study”. Available: Savory Institute (2013) “Restoring the Climate Through Capture and Storage of Soil Carbon Using Holistic Planned Grazing”, White Paper. Available:
Contacts Savory Institute: Email: Website: Africa Centre for Holistic Management: Email: Website: