In short, Holistic Management (HM) is an approach to managing agricultural resources.
HM was originally developed by Allan Savory, acclaimed ecologist and environmentalist, as a solution for the desertification of nearly 2/3rds of the earth’s land. Through HM, Savory advocates for the revitalization of the world’s deserts by exponentially increasing livestock presence.
Human-supervised livestock presence would “mimic” nature by trampling the ground, which would help the soil retain more water, and then fertilize the soil with waste. The ground would never be too trampled, because holistic management planning would rotate the livestock from place to place, mimicking grazing patterns as herbivorous herds once fled from predators.
The foundation of Holistic Management rests on the “Four Cornerstones”:
- Financial Planning: an awareness of what to spend money on and when to yield a profit
- Grazing Planning: coordinate the movement of livestock to improve the health of the land and increase profit
- Land Planning: design land development that reduces input costs and increases profit
- Biological Monitoring: monitor the health or regression of the land and respond to it accordingly (HM International)
Through his holistic management approach, Savory claims the rebirth of nature’s grasslands would not only increase usable land for farming, but would also trap carbon and reduce the world’s carbon footprint drastically. Feed the people, save the world.
If HM is the answer, why isn’t it happening everywhere? There are dissenting opinions on the success of HM, specifically in relation to solving desertification with more grazing, not less. “It’s difficult to imagine how a human-managed ecosystem such as Savory’s…is more representative of ‘nature’s complexity’ than a healthy desert full of organisms that have co-evolved over millennia,” (All Sizzle and No Steak) “Savory’s Method won’t scale.”
Savory promises a million and one great things through his approach with holistic management, but are they too good to be true? For more information, you can watch his TED Talk on how to fight desertification, or check out local businesses employing holistic management such as the Houston Conservation Center.