As co-founder of the Savory Institute, Zimbabwean farmer and ecologist Allan Savory is a key but controversial figure in movements to combat desertification. After a seven-decade career he has developed a method for moving livestock across dry plains in a way that he says mimics nature, prevents overgrazing, and helps grasslands grow.
Savory claims his ‘Holistic Management’ process — leading a herd to defecate and trample minerals, urine and old plant matter into the ground — creates the right conditions for greener areas that can effectively absorb and store carbon in soils, effectively reversing climate change. He says these areas become full of water and biodiversity and create economic abundance for farmers.
Savory’s institute manages over 8 million hectares of land across the US, Africa, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Canada and Australia. His 2013 TED Talk has racked up over 5 million views; he has been called a “remarkable man” by Prince Charles of the UK; and in 2003 he was honoured by Australia with the Banksia International Award for the “person doing the most for the environment on a global scale”.
However, Savory’s ideas have sparked strident opposition from some academics, who question both the wisdom of increasing numbers of livestock and the potential for the ground to capture high levels of carbon. UK ecological writer George Monbiot compared the rush to embrace Savory’s ideas as similar to the rush towards a miracle cure — writing that the Zimbabwean’s statements “are not supported by empirical evidence and experimental work, and that in crucial respects his techniques do more harm than good.”
Savory graduated with an undergraduate degree in Botany and Zoology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 1956.Tags: Africa, Drought