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The revitalization of the world's grasslands offer a opportunity to address the imminent threat of climate change & its host of challenges.



”Six to ten inches (18-25 cm) of topsoil are all that stand between us and extinction. There is far more to this than food. The things that live in and grow from this irreplaceable and finite resource also keep us clothed, the air and water clean, the land green and pleasant and the human soul refreshed. Only now are we starting to comprehend how the tiny life forms in soil sustain productivity and the greater environmental balance.” -- Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of UNCCD, June 17, 2010

Desertification of large areas of grasslands is happening at an alarming rate around the world. These man-made deserts play a critical role in many of the world’s most pressing problems such as climate change, food insecurity, drought and poverty.

The Savory Institute promotes the large-scale restoration of these grasslands through Holistic Management, a strategic planning process that uses properly managed livestock to heal the land, mitigate climate change and create food security for entire regions.  Holistic Management is successful because it is cost-effective, highly scalable and nature-based. It is sustainable because it increases land productivity, livestock stocking rates and profits for landowners without compromising the long-term viability of the resource base.

Savory Institute's global impact strategy of establishing 100 locally led and managed Savory Hubs by 2025 is critical in accomplishing the goal influencing the management of 1 billion hectares of grassland that are currently desertifying because of mismanagement. This will be attained through the training, education and implementation support of thousands of pastoralists around the world that Savory Hubs will be providing in their own holistic contexts. Savory Hubs are an expression of the entrepreneurial spirit and passion of Holistic Managers for the healing of the world’s grasslands, soils, and communities. This hopeful rather than fearful approach of addressing climate change will inspire action and change.

Category of the action

Changing public perceptions on climate change

What actions do you propose?

The Problem: Desertification

For many years, large areas of grasslands around the world have been turning into barren deserts. This process, called desertification, is happening at an alarming rate in vast areas of the United States, Canada, Mexico, China, Australia, Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan and many other countries. An estimated one-third of the Earth’s surface is covered with grasslands that are facing the threat of desertification.

Desertification plays a critical role in many of the world’s most pressing problems such as

  • Climate Change. Dry, infertile, bare soil is unable to store carbon, releasing it into the atmosphere.
  • Water Issues. Desertification creates large areas of exposed soil which causes water to evaporate or runoff instead of soaking into the soil. This increases the frequency and severity of floods and droughts even with no rainfall change in a specific region.
  • Famine/Food Insecurity. Desertification is hurting the grasslands’ capacity to feed billions of humans, resulting in famine and decreased food safety.
  • Poverty. Desertification is a major driver of poverty for entire regions, hurting the economic stability of rural pastoralist communities and causing imbalanced consumption and demand patterns around the world.
  • Social Disruption. Because desertification is connected to drought, poverty and hunger, it also contributes to increased social violence, abuse of women and children, cultural genocide and emigration to cities and other countries.


One of the major causes of desertification is agriculture – or more technically, the production of food and fiber from the world’s land and waters by human beings for human beings.

In the past, large wild herds of herbivores such as caribou and buffalo moved over the land to find food and avoid predators. These herds grazed, defecated, stomped and salivated as they moved across the grasslands, building soil and deepening plant roots. These herds would not return to an area until it had recovered. Unfortunately, over time, the wild herds disappeared and were replaced by small numbers of domestic, sedentary livestock. Without the timely stomping and excrement of large numbers of animals, the cycle of biological decay in these grasslands was interrupted and the once-rich soils turned into dry, exposed desert land, dramatically decreasing the effectiveness of rainfall.

Throughout history, billions of dollars have been spent on solutions to desertification, which include resting the land, planting grass and trees, using fire to remove dead material and developing machines to work or irrigate the soil. These solutions relied on large amounts of capital and expensive technology and were often culturally inappropriate. None of them have been successful in creating large-scale change. In fact, desertification has continued to accelerate at an alarming rate.

The Solution: Holistic Management

The Savory Institute, co-founded by Allan Savory, a Zimbabwean biologist and creator of Holistic Management, is devoted to large-scale restoration of the world’s grasslands through the practice of Holistic Management.

Holistic Management is a strategic planning process that helps land managers understand the relationship between the large herds of wild herbivores that used to roam the Earth and the grasslands. This knowledge is used to develop strategies for managing herds of domestic livestock to mimic those wild herds to heal the land. It gives pastoralists, farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, policymakers and others the insights and management tools needed to understand nature’s complexity and work with it, resulting in better, more informed decisions that balance key social, environmental and financial considerations.

Holistic Management works because it is:

  • Cost-effective. Practitioners don’t need large amounts of capital or expensive technology to start using this nature-based solution
  • Highly scalable. Holistic Management is readily deployable and works for any culture or landscape. 
  • Regenerative.  Practitioners who use Holistic Management bring their land back to life while creating social and financial wealth. It actually increases land productivity, livestock stocking rates and profits for landowners without compromising the long term viability of the resource base.
  • A nature-based solution. Holistic Management embraces the complexity of nature and the need to complete the cycle of biological decay on grasslands.


Land under Holistic Management has shown significant increases in productivity (300% not uncommon), biodiversity, water retention and carbon sequestration. In addition, social well-being monitoring has shown increases in important indicators such as peace of mind, financial security and overall quality of life.

Currently, Holistic Management is being practiced on over 40 million acres (15 million hectares) on five continents.

The Goal: Influence 1 Billion Hectares of Land by 2025

The Savory Institute’s goal is to empower people throughout the world to use Holistic Management to heal the grasslands of the world in order to mitigate climate change and other problems. To achieve such large-scale impact, the Savory Institute has launched its 2025 campaign, to help establish a global network of 100 locally led and managed “Hubs” that will provide training, consulting, monitoring and implementation support services to land managers and others working to address land degradation and to mitigate climate change. Each Hub will operate within its own holistic context (social, cultural, political, ecological and economic) and seek to influence the management of 10 million hectares of land.

To ensure that each Hub achieves maximum success, the Savory Institute is developing a set of state-of-the-art tools designed to support land managers.  We are creating new training modules for both land managers and policymakers that enhance the current Holistic Management curriculum content and materials.  Our curriculum will include a set of e-learning modules to help the Hubs provide trainings and on-going implementation support to people in remote areas.

Each Hub will be licensed to use the Savory Institute curriculum, training materials, e-learning tools, and technology platform. These services will generate revenue for the local Hub and create environmental, economic and social benefits for the region.

In addition, the Savory Institute is developing The Holistic Platform, an online technology platform which will provide access to the curriculum and other training materials as well as resources needed for the successful implementation and growth of local Hubs. This platform will help the Hubs share crucial information and databases (weather, soils, vegetation, wildlife habitat, drought risk, commodity prices, etc.) that will support land managers as they work to develop and implement successful grazing and business plans.

Savory Institute will also support the Hubs by continuing our work to remove barriers to large-scale success.  These efforts include:

  • Conducting research on each of the Hubs’ demonstrations sites (working in partnership with academic and research institutions such as NASA, South Western Research Institute, Princeton University, University of Wyoming’s Haub School for the Environment, Texas A&M, Idaho State University and others).


  • Informing policy in various roundtables and working groups (such as FAO Global Agenda for Action, the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, UN Global Compact Voluntary Business Principles Core Advisory Group, and others).


  • Establishing market incentives so regenerative land management practices are rewarded by the market place. For example, Patagonia Inc. now sources holistically produced wool from estancias in Argentina and Chile who are working with Savory Institute.
  • Providing access to funding because conventional financing institutions are not an option in many of these regions. We will be creating a “Supply Chain Fund” with patient capital, a sort of revolving loan fund available to pastoralists at very low or no interest rates depending on the context, to facilitate the acquisition of livestock, processing equipment, marketing tools, etc.

A Sustainable Model with Environmental, Social and Economic Benefits

Each local Hub will be expected to generate a financial, biological and social return on the original investment.  Each Hub is expected to:

  • Be financially self-sustaining within three to five years.  After ten years, each Hub will generate average annual revenue of $700,000 (U.S.) and employ numerous local people.


  • Be strategically positioned to influence an average of 10 million hectares of land.  In addition to influencing the 10 million hectares, each Hub will have decision-making control of a specific land base for research, demonstration and hands-on learning of Holistic Management in practice for the hundreds of pastoralists in the regions. 
  • Contribute to the mitigation of climate change. Research shows significant increases in soil organic matter (SOM) in holistically managed rangelands. If our network of Hubs increases the SOM by 1 percent to a depth of 60 cm across 1 billion hectares of grasslands, we would be sequestering 54.2 gigatons (US) of carbon from the atmosphere.


Putting the Plan into Action

In 2012, the Savory Institute launched its first two Hubs: The Africa Center for Holistic Management near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and the Eastern Cape Hub in South Africa, led from within the Olive Leaf Foundation and in collaboration with Fort Cox College. Both are working with surrounding villages in their communal lands as well as commercial farmers.

We are currently working with Hub candidates for 2013 that include groups of producers in Turkey, Spain, Morocco, Sweden, Patagonia Chile, Patagonia Argentina, Mexico, USA and Australia. The leaders in each of these locations will be receiving business development and policy training in the USA in June 2013.



Who will take these actions?

Daniela Ibarra-Howell -- CEO, Co-founder
Daniela Ibarra-Howell co-founded the Savory Institute bringing over 20 years of experience working on desertification and land degradation issues. Daniela has practiced and taught holistic management to successfully heal grasslands and meet economic and social goals in many different regions of the world.

Tre' Cates - CFO, Business Development Director
Tre’ is a proven leader, innovator and social entrepreneur.  Motivating and understanding people have proven to be indispensible while defining, developing, and communicating an organization’s vision for the future.  His ability to create and lead high performing organizations is foundational to his success.

Andrea Malmberg - Director of Research & Knowledge Management 
Andrea was raised on the land in the western United States. She holds a B.S. in Agriculture, M.S in Natural Resources from Washington State University, and MA in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. After completing her studies in Zimbabwe and Argentina in 2007, Andrea became an Accredited Associate Consultant and Educator in Holistic Management.

HUB Leaders:

Nick Sharpe - Iberian (Spain)

Gonzalo Guijarro - Iberian

Mario David Pedraza - Sierra Gorda (Mexico)

Marta Hernandez Galvan - Sierra Gorda

Huggins Matanga - Africa Centre for Holistic Management (Zimbabwe)

Simon Garikayi - Africa Centre for Holistic Management

Ivan Aurelio Aguirre - Sonora (Mexico)

Juan Carlos Villa Pando - Sonora

Diego Hiram Alegriabencomo - Sonora

Sandra Matheson - Pacific Northwest (US)

Doug Warnock - Pacific Northwest

Elizabeth Robinette - Pacific Northwest

Elco Blanco - Chihuahua (Mexico)

Durukan Dudu - Turkey

Ricardo Fenton - Patagonia (Argentina)

Pablo Borrelli - Patagonia

Jose Manuel Gortazar Martinez - Chile

Elizabeth Barkla - Chile

Josef Lewis - Eastern Cape (South Africa)

Rolf Pretorius - Eastern Cape

Adam Sacks - New England (US)

Jim Laurie - New England

Ulf Ullring - Sweden

Jorgen Andersson - Sweden

Where will these actions be taken?

Currently, Holistic Management is being practiced on over 16 million hectares) on five continents.

The Savory Institute's Global Strategy through HUBS will expand Holistic Management's impact in Spain, two areas in Mexico, Zimbabwe, Pacific Northwest in the US, Turkey, Patagonia Argentina, Patagonia Chile, Eastern Cape South Africa, New England in the US, and Sweden in 2013.  Each HUB is strategically located to influence 10 million hectares of land.

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

What are other key benefits?

Ecological Results

Through Healthy Ecosystem Processes:

  • Biodiversity, water capture and retention, solar energy flow, and mineral cycling are optimized.
  • Soils become the carbon and water sink they are meant to be.
  • Wildlife and fisheries are enhanced.


Economic Results

  • Sustained Profitability•Ever-improving capital base
  • Low Cost Production Models
  • Financial decisions that match desired quality of life and overall well-being.


Social Results

  • Enterprises that are an expression of passions and lead to our desired quality of life.
  • Creation of opportunities for our children to stay involved in our businesses if they so choose.
  • Communities healthy and thriving with diverse economies.
  • Enhanced personal well-being.

What are the proposal’s costs?

The expected investment for each Hub will vary from $250,000 to $500,000 (USD) based upon staff, infrastructure, land base and demand for HM products and services in the region. The seed funding for Hubs will be secured through a combination of Savory Institute’s fundraising efforts, fundraising efforts of the local community, local crowd funding, corporate venture capital, micro investment approaches, philanthropic seed capital and revenue generated from services by the Hub. 

This award will help us empower people throughout the world to use Holistic Management to heal the grasslands of the world and support our efforts to put the necessary infrastructure in place to influence the management of 1 billion hectares of land by 2025.

Time line

10 HUBs in 2013.  100 by 2025.

Related proposals


Hodgson,  J. & Illius, A. W. (Eds.). (1996). The ecology and management of grazing systems. London: CAB International Fund for Agricultural Development. (2010). Livestock and pastoralists. Rome: International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Krätli, S., Huelsebusch, C., Brooks, B., & Kaufmann, B. (2013). Pastoralism: A critical asset for food security under global climate change. Animal Frontiers. Doi:10.2527/af2013-0007

Milchunas, D. G. & Lauenroth, W. K. (1993). Quantitative effects of grazing on vegetation and soils over a global range of environments." Ecological Monographs 63(4), 327-366.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. (2005b). Ecosystems and human well-being: Desertification synthesis. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute.

Neely, C., Bunning, S., & Wiles, A. (2009). Review of evidence on drylands pastroral systems and climate change: Implication and opportunities for mitigation and adaptation. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Ragab, R., & Prudhomme, C. (2002). Climate change and water resources management in arid and semi-arid regions: Prospective and challenges for the 21st century. Biosystems Engineering, 81(1), 3–34. doi:10.1006/bioe.2001.0013

Soussana, J. F., Tallec, T., & Blanfort, V. (2010). "Mitigating the greenhouse gas balance of ruminant production systems through carbon sequestration in grasslands." Animal, 4(3): 334-350.

Teague, W. R., Dowhower, S. L., Baker, S. A., Haile, N., DeLaune, P. B., & Conover, D. M. (2011). Grazing management impacts on vegetation, soil biota and soil chemical, physical and Hydrological properties in tall grass prairie. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 141(3), 310-322.

Weber, K. T., & Horst, S. (2011). Desertification and livestock grazing: The roles of sedentarization, mobility and rest. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice, 1(1), 1-19.