Allan Savory: How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change

“Desertification is a fancy word for land that is turning to desert,” begins Allan Savory in this quietly powerful talk. And terrifyingly, it’s happening to about two-thirds of the world’s grasslands, accelerating climate change and causing traditional grazing societies to descend into social chaos. Savory has devoted his life to stopping it. He now believes — and his work so far shows — that a surprising factor can protect grasslands and even reclaim degraded land that was once desert.”

Allan Savory’s home
Note: Allan Savory’s research is controversial. However, there is other evidence that grazing livestock with his method does work, at least in some situations. For example, see this excellent video by Gabe Brown, a farmer in North Dakota who’s had tremendous success with short, intensive grazing on his farm. Basically, they recreate the effect of buffalo herds on the prairies. These ideas are important for all those homesteaders who are seeking a simpler life in the country. Much of the available land now is severely degraded. It’s very encouraging to know that depleted soils can be restored again.

10 thoughts on “Allan Savory: How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change”

  1. I’ve used Allan Savory’s methods, and they do work. Most people focus on just the rotational grazing portion, but his Holistic Management is so much more than that. It’s a framework for making intelligent decisions for land management. Grazing and animal impact are a few of the tools that he employs.

    We’ve tried his methods using many different species, including pigs, poultry, goats, and cattle. Animal impact is often considered a detriment, but when used properly, it can revitalize land. I’ve taken overgrazed, deteriorated land, run a lot of animals through for a short time, and then let it rest. The next rain season, it comes alive with lots of species of vegetation and soon starts building the grassland ecosystem all over again.

    Animal impact can greatly increase the soil’s ability to absorb water and churns organic matter into the soil, providing the perfect conditions for increased biomass production.

    I’ve seen his methods work on a wide range of land types and situations. You don’t keep the animals in one place, the whole point is to replicate the natural animal movement with predator pressure, which is tightly formed groups that move constantly.

    His methods have been applied across the world to millions of acres of land, with wide-range success. Anyone that doubts his methods should visit a Holistically Managed property and see for themselves. My neighbors range cattle the regular way, and they barely have any ground cover. Right over the fence on my property, grass is chest deep!

    • Abe sent me a photo of his land that I’ll use in an upcoming blog post. The lush growth really is amazing. The key in all these techniques is to replicate nature/work with nature.

      Abe, what does your neighbor say about your results? What is the local county extension service doing? Local BLM office? They must know about it. This stuff obviously works for lots of different situations. Imagine if the BLM and US Forest Service started using these methods.

      • My neighbor has been really impressed, and I’ve even let his cows pulse through my property a few times. He’s starting to come around, at first, he wasn’t convinced it would work, but now, he’s amazed at my grass. He’s starting rotating his cows more, letting his land rest more, so he’s definitely changing his ways. But ranchers are slow to adopt new methods, you have to really prove it works, then they will accept it. He says many times how thick our grass is, we need to graze it! I reply “Not yet, it’s not ready, let it grow!”

    • The following video shows how to restore desert areas (BLM type land) with short periods of intensive grazing.

      The comments section below the video list other resources. These ideas are catching on as you can see from the different books now available. Unfortunately, most agriculture journals don’t write about it much because they would lose advertisers. Every US farmer who switches to this method might sell hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment because it’s no longer needed!

      I’m watching more videos and reading more about this. Some farmers are using different types of livestock. Some are combining cows, sheep and chickens. The soil quality improves each year. One farm (Joel Salatin’s Polyface farm) built 8″ of topsoil over the last 50 years. At first the soil was totally ruined.

  2. Owen, I love this website: it’s my homepage. I respect your opinion and realize you stated Savory’s work is controversial.
    However, this TED talk is so misleading it’s unnerving.

    There haven’t been many scientific articles reaffirming Savory’s experiments – in fact, it seems he only did one experiment to prove his point.

    This also demonizes deserts and suggests the soil therein is dead – this is not true – most topsoil is teeming with microorganisms that form a “crust” which hold in carbon and nutrients.

    Desertification is bad, but desertification is not the same as deserts (which naturally occur and provide a very important niche for many animals).

    Bison migrated enormous distances, spent a few weeks in one area and moved on with the seasons. Even in Yellowstone they have about 3,400 square miles to move around in. Cattle can’t do that now – they’re kept in a relatively small area year round.

    Climate change is scary – but one experiment from one man in the 70’s that can’t be recreated well enough for publishing in a scientific journal (if there is one somewhere, I will gladly read it – I didn’t look very extensively) shouldn’t be enough to prompt everyone to become cattle ranchers.

    I know that’s not what you’re promoting – but I think some of things need to be addressed and thought of critically (not that you haven’t).

    • This is just food for thought. I am finding other supporting information such as the Gabe Brown video linked in the blog post. Be sure to watch that video. What they’re saying is way different than what most cattle farmers/ranchers are doing. They only graze the land for very short periods and they only graze off 1/3 or so of the feed. Sure, leave the cattle on the land for long periods and they will cause a lot of devastation. A regular reader of our blog uses this to good effect in Texas. Maybe he will comment.

      Note: there are probably lots of missing details that I don’t know. For instance, maybe badly damaged land has to be restored to a certain level before using this grazing process. In other words, it may only work under certain conditions. Still, it’s interesting and well worth investigating.

      Also, to my understanding this was not just one little experiment. He says how many square kilometers this is being used on. It’s a huge area.


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