Allan Savory is a renowned Zimbabwean ecologist, farmer, and pioneer in the field of regenerative agriculture. Born on September 15, 1935, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia), Savory has dedicated his life to developing and promoting the concept of holistic land management.
His groundbreaking work on reversing desertification and restoring grasslands has had a profound impact on the field of sustainable agriculture and land stewardship. This comprehensive biography delves into the life, accomplishments, and philosophies of Allan Savory, highlighting his journey from wildlife conservationist to a leading figure in regenerative agriculture.
Notable Quotes attributed to Allan Savory:
- “Only livestock can save us. Not by being reduced in numbers, but by being increased.”
- “We have no option but to work with nature, to holistically manage our resources, or we will suffer the consequences.”
- “The greatest ally to any environmentalist is a cowboy, not a bureaucrat.”
- “It’s not the cow; it’s the how.”
- “Desertification is a fancy word for land that is turning to desert.”
- “All we need to do is mimic the natural herding patterns of the large herds that used to roam grasslands, and we can sequester carbon and restore biodiversity.”
- “The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between the way nature works and the way people think.”
- “The environment is not a bank from which we can withdraw resources without depositing anything in return.”
- “The more livestock we have properly managed, the more land we can save from desertification and return to fertility.”
- “Time is our scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.”
Early Life and Career in Wildlife Conservation
Allan Savory developed a deep connection with nature from an early age, growing up on a farm in the African bush. His passion for wildlife and the environment led him to pursue a career in wildlife management. After completing his education in South Africa and the United Kingdom, Savory returned to Zimbabwe to work for the Department of Game and Tsetse Control. During this time, he became increasingly concerned about the degradation of grasslands and the decline of wildlife populations.
The Birth of Holistic Management
Savory’s experiences and observations in the field led him to question the prevailing beliefs about managing rangelands and combating desertification. In the early 1960s, he began developing the concept of holistic management, a comprehensive approach that emphasizes the interconnectedness of ecological, social, and economic factors in land management decisions. Savory recognized the critical role that grazing animals play in maintaining the health and productivity of grasslands, and he sought to develop a method that could harness their impact in a way that benefits both the land and the people who depend on it.
The Savory Grazing Method
One of Allan Savory’s most significant contributions to regenerative agriculture is the development of the Savory Grazing Method, also known as holistic planned grazing. The method is based on the principle of mimicking the natural movement and grazing patterns of herds to restore grasslands and reverse desertification. By carefully managing the timing and intensity of livestock grazing, Savory believed that it was possible to regenerate degraded landscapes, increase biodiversity, and improve soil health.
Through holistic planned grazing, Savory proposed a system that encourages the clustering and movement of livestock, closely mimicking the behavior of wild herds. This approach prevents overgrazing in specific areas, allows for adequate rest and recovery periods for the land, and promotes the regeneration of grasses and forage plants. The rotational movement of livestock across different grazing areas ensures that no single area is continuously grazed, enabling the land to recover and regenerate.
Challenging Conventional Wisdom
Allan Savory’s holistic approach to land management challenged conventional wisdom, particularly the belief that desertification and degradation were solely caused by livestock. He argued that it was not the presence of animals but rather mismanagement and incorrect grazing practices that led to the deterioration of grasslands. This paradigm shift in thinking presented a new way forward for farmers, landowners, and policymakers, offering hope for restoring degraded landscapes and building resilient ecosystems.
Founding the Center for Holistic Management
In 1984, Allan Savory co-founded the Center for Holistic Management (CHM) with his wife, Jody Butterfield. The CHM serves as a hub for education, training, research, and advocacy in regenerative agriculture and holistic land management. Through the organization, Savory and his team have worked with farmers, ranchers, and land managers around the world, offering training programs, consulting services, and resources to help implement holistic management practices.
Global Impact and Recognition
Allan Savory’s work has had a global impact on the fields of sustainable agriculture and land restoration. His holistic management approach has been successfully implemented in diverse ecosystems, ranging from arid grasslands to tropical forests. The positive outcomes observed in these projects have garnered international attention and recognition.
Savory’s groundbreaking ideas and methodologies have been shared through lectures, workshops, and training programs conducted worldwide. He has spoken at numerous conferences and has delivered influential TED Talks, including his widely viewed 2013 talk, “How to Fight Desertification and Reverse Climate Change.” His ability to communicate complex ecological concepts in a relatable and compelling manner has helped him inspire a global community of farmers, scientists, policymakers, and environmentalists.
In recent years, Allan Savory’s work has gained increased traction in the face of mounting concerns over climate change and land degradation. His approach to regenerative agriculture and land management has gained recognition as a potential solution to combatting desertification, improving soil health, increasing water retention, and sequestering carbon in the soil.
Savory’s Legacy and Continued Efforts
Allan Savory’s impact extends far beyond the development of holistic management. He has been a passionate advocate for sustainable land use practices, emphasizing the importance of addressing environmental, social, and economic factors in decision-making processes. His work emphasizes the need for interdisciplinary collaboration and a holistic understanding of complex ecological systems.
Today, Savory’s holistic management principles are embraced by a growing number of farmers, ranchers, and land managers worldwide. They have become a cornerstone of regenerative agriculture movements, influencing a shift towards more sustainable and regenerative land management practices. His work has also inspired younger generations to pursue careers in sustainable agriculture, environmental conservation, and land restoration.
Allan Savory’s contributions to regenerative agriculture have earned him numerous accolades and honors. In 2003, he was awarded the Banksia International Award for his pioneering work in the field of sustainable land management. He has also received the Buckminster Fuller Challenge Award, the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Institute’s Challenge, and the 2018 Award of Distinction from the Ecological Society of America.
Allan Savory’s lifelong dedication to holistic land management and regenerative agriculture has revolutionized the way we think about and approach land stewardship. Through his holistic management principles and the Savory Grazing Method, he has provided a practical framework for regenerating degraded landscapes, improving soil health, and restoring ecosystems. His work has inspired a global movement of farmers, ranchers, and land managers who strive to create resilient and sustainable food systems while addressing environmental challenges.
As the world grapples with pressing issues such as climate change, soil degradation, and food security, Allan Savory’s vision and methods offer hope and practical solutions. His tireless efforts to promote sustainable land management practices and his commitment to sharing knowledge and inspiring change have left an indelible mark on the field of regenerative agriculture. Allan Savory’s legacy serves as a testament to the power of holistic thinking, interdisciplinary collaboration, and the potential for humans to restore and regenerate our planet’s ecosystems for future generations.