Mana Pools – very dry10 min read



Most of this is taken from a presentation I gave at Africa’s Wildlife Economy Summit in Victoria Falls last month.

Our environment sustains all life. When habitat degrades, the lives of all that depend on it also deteriorate: poor land = poor people and social breakdown.

Globally, and particularly in Africa we are facing the many symptoms of advancing
desertification: ever-increasing droughts, floods, wildfires, poverty, poaching, human-wildlife conflict, social breakdown, mass emigration to cities, biodiversity loss and climate change.

No economy can survive if we destroy our soil – the only economy that can ultimately sustain any community, or nation, is based on the photosynthetic process — green plants growing on regenerating soil. And any future wildlife economy is totally dependent on healthy habitat for both humans and wildlife.

So, if we wanted to find out the optimum way to manage our wildlife, people and economy, logically, shouldn’t we be looking at our National Parks for the best examples of what we can do for our environment? Because in national parks, we not only have the best management the world knows, we don’t have any of the issues that are normally blamed for causing desertification: ignorance, greed, corruption, corporations, livestock, coal, oil, etc.

Let’s do that now…



As you can see from those photos, some of the worst biodiversity loss and land degradation we have in Zimbabwe is occurring IN our National Parks. But, as I pointed out, those have been run using the best management known to us and have been protected and conserved for decades. We’ve clearly been missing something…

We are seeing this land degradation both inside and out of our Parks because there is an over-arching and common cause of desertification that nobody has understood, or been able to successfully address, until recently.

We spend our lives blaming resources for causing the damage (coal, oil, livestock, elephants, etc) but resources are natural, so how could they possibly be to blame? Only our management of them can be causing the problem.

ALL tool using animals (including humans) automatically use a
genetically embedded management framework…

For example, a hungry otter has an objective: he wants to break open a clamshell because he needs to eat. He uses a simple tool to do so (technology, in the form of a stone.) He does this based on past experience or what he’s been taught.

Or, the president of the USA has an objective: to put a man on the moon. He and his team use the same tool (technology, but various forms of it) and base their choices on past experience, expert advice, and so on. It’s exactly the same framework in both cases, only the degree of sophistication has varied.

This decision making process still works perfectly well for otters. But imagine that one day, one of the otters invents a machine that can open 1,000 clam shells a day and all the other otters stop doing what they do and just come to him to get their clams. They still use the same decision making process…but it’s all changed. That tiny advance in their technology would set off a complex chain reaction through the whole ecosystem and there would soon be catastrophic environmental knock-on effects. The ecosystem will keep trying to adjust but eventually it will start to collapse. Imagine the otter started charging for the clams.

Now, with every decision the otters make, in order to make sure their ecosystem doesn’t collapse, they’d have to be simultaneously addressing the social, environmental and economic complexity of their actions. Their management would have to evolve with the change.

This is what happened to us…As soon as our technology advanced, our management should have evolved to accommodate for it. But it never has. Until now.

Our natural world is rapidly collapsing all around us because, no matter what we are managing, we cannot escape an inevitable web of social, economic and environmental complexity, so, in order to successfully address any issue, the people and the finances have to be addressed simultaneously, not just the land itself. Isolating one particular part of a problem, or singling out a species and trying to manage it successfully, is like trying to isolate and manage the hydrogen in water.

My father, Allan Savory, an independent Zimbabwean scientist, has developed, over decades of research, trial and error on his his relentless and lifelong search for solutions to reversing desertification and saving the wildlife he loves, the first decision making framework to successfully deal with the inevitable web of social, cultural, economic and environmental complexity that ALL our management decisions come with.

And within that framework is a new, biological tool that HAS TO be used, in certain situations, to reverse desertification: grazing and animal impact from huge herds of herbivores.

Our grasslands have to have the perfect timing and movement of millions of herding animals and their pack hunting predators to keep them alive. The predators are there to make sure that the herds stay bunched together and on the move, so that they do not stay too long in one area and that they move on once they have churned up and aerated the soil and formed a protective mulch over it by trampling down the grass and fertilized it with their dung and urine.

Unfortunately, we no longer have the balance or numbers of wildlife that we used to, so they can’t do the job of keeping the land healthy by themselves anymore. That’s why we need this new tool. Land degradation can still be reversed by using properly-managed livestock to mimic the grazing, impact and timing of the wildlife that is vital in keeping our grasslands healthy. Livestock are being used to plough the soil, trample down and fertilize the plants to cover the soil, protecting and preparing it for the next growing season.

The bottom line is that there is a vital symbiotic relationship between herding animals and grasslands (which make up about 2/3 of the world’s land mass) and we simply don’t have the numbers of wild herbivores needed to keep them alive. The Holistic Planned Grazing Process of livestock is vital if we are to revive the world’s grasslands and secure a future for all life on this planet.

It’s vital to point out to everyone that unless the framework is being used, nothing new is being done and nothing regenerative will be achieved in the long run.

The only new thinking is the decision making process.

Frenchman, Andre Voisin discovered over 70 years ago that all grazing plans on their own would ultimately fail and that some form of planning process was needed. My father read his book and that was what made him realize why all the grazing plans were consistently failing after time:

“Following Voisin’s clue that some form of planning process was essential, we began to explore all known planning processes, in all fields, to see if anyone had ever dealt with such complicated, ever-changing situations successfully. We found what we were looking for in the military colleges of Europe. The military had centuries of experience: learning how to plan under stress and chaos in immediate battlefield situations…

Our early efforts using this basically military method of planning worked immediately, with positive evidence of improvement of the land. Over the next few years, some livestock owners began experiencing set backs and some, complete failure.  Analysis showed that this was not due to the grazing planning process, but because I had failed to consider the social and economic aspects that were involved. We had, in fact, only learned how to plan livestock/land management, in what amounted to dealing with complicated and ever-changing circumstances. What we had not yet learned to manage was the web of social, cultural, environmental and economic complexity that is always present and inevitable. It took us a further four years to learn how to do that and successfully manage the full web of complexity, at which point the word holistic was added to the grazing planning process.

With this knowledge, the Holistic Management Framework and Holistic Planned Grazing Process was developed.

Ever since that development, when the Holistic Management Framework is used correctly, the results have been consistent and we are reversing desertification.”

This new decision making process ensures that we focus on the root cause of any problem. It makes sure that all our decisions are culturally sound, economically viable and ecologically  regenerative. And it introduces us to the new, biological tool: animal impact and grazing, that is being used to help us reverse desertification.


This video clip was taken last month, of 4 different areas, all very near Victoria Falls: you will clearly see the terrible desertification in both National Parks and nearby Communal Land. In comparison, you will see a vast difference on Dibangombe, the Africa Centre For Holistic Management (only 30km from here.) This habitat is being regenerated for all life by simply managing holistically. Every year on this land, despite the worsening droughts, the biodiversity increases and the land, communities and wildlife flourish.

All this footage was taken in the same area, at the same time, with the same climate, the same soils, the same wildlife and the same humans.

But different management.

Most of the problems we are facing in our countries today are just symptoms of reductionist management.

Imagine that one day, someone starts to hit you really hard over the head, once a day, every day, with a cricket bat. It really hurts, but instead of taking the bat away from them and stopping the blows, you just take a painkiller to deal with the headache it’s caused and
let them carry on.

Over the next few weeks, you’d need stronger and stronger painkillers. And so it goes on, while the blows continue.

Your body will eventually start to struggle from all the medications and you’ll end up in hospital with very serious complications. The best doctors and specialists in the world are called in at great expense and they rush around treating all your worsening, and now life-threatening, symptoms. None of them can understand why you aren’t getting better –

they’ve used the best medicines and procedures known. But they’re so focused on your symptoms, nobody has looked up and seen the person standing behind you with the cricket bat.

It sounds silly when I put it like that, doesn’t it?

Our country is in that hospital with life threatening complications, with Governments, Organisations and individuals doing their best, spending billions of dollars, often using expert advice in order to form policies or find out the best way to treat the patient, but

nobody has realised that they are only treating symptoms. Nobody has noticed the guy standing there with the bat.

The holistic management framework takes the bat away. As soon as we do that and the cause is being treated, all the symptoms will automatically begin to heal and fall away.

This framework has received world-wide acclaim and is now being mirrored in 43 holistic management hubs on 6 continents, including the first University led hub in the USA. Benefiting wildlife and the communities that live amongst them.

The theme of this summit is Wildlife Economy and the bottom line is that there simply can be no wildlife economy unless the management that is causing the destruction of wildlife and human habitat is addressed in our policies.

It’s time for us to evolve from using our outdated, reductionist management framework. We need to adapt to a new way of thinking and apply this paradigm-shifting decision making framework so that we can all work together towards regenerating our countries.



Environmentally and


Every single one of us, from Presidents to poachers want stability in these pillars of life, beyond race, religious or political ideologies. Let’s remember to keep the dots connected. Reductionist approaches are what got us to the point we are at today. We can no longer afford business as usual, we have to adapt and evolve. And we have to start by stopping the blows to the head.

Our lives and the life of all wildlife depend on it.