Today I chanced upon a TED talk presented by Allan Savory, a Zimbabwean ecologist who killed 40,000+ elephants through a faulty analysis. Before we jump to conclusions, let’s see what he has to talk about! His elaborate talk was about reversing the climate change and greening the desert. In this article, we will be solely focused on the Savory Institute’s methodology to reverse desertification.
The grassland regeneration programme under the Savory institute identified the world’s grasslands as the fastest areas under vegetation decline meaning that the desertification of these areas not only lead to global warming and climate change in the long term but also famine-induced riots and violence. In order to understand the impact of their project, we need to understand the scope of it.
How big are the world’s grasslands? Well, they take up almost 1/3rd of the entire Earth’s surface! The people living in these lands rely on these lands for their subsistence and this, in turn produces the food for hundreds of millions of people. Naturally, the next question would be, how bad is the desertification or land degradation in these areas? According to the institute, almost 70% of the grasslands have been degraded and are on their way to becoming deserts.
Now let us move on to their solution for the massive desertification. The concept is that of regeneration through holistic management practices. Integrating planning and management tools into agricultural practices and educating farmers about them helps improve the climate while providing subsistence for the villages. But what is revolutionary about Allan that sets him apart from the rest of the eco-projects?
The way he plans to deal with the areas with a lack of rain for long periods of time is through mimicking the path of a natural herd of animals with predators. The herd grows together and moves around in a pasture covering a large area such that they do not graze over the same area twice. The trampled grass in the area visited by the herd (which is orchestrated by the farmer) covers the ground and absorbs moisture. This keeps the land fertile and grow further in the future years. In short, the plan means increasing the size of the cattle in a locality, contrary to the popular belief that a major chunk of carbon emissions are from cattle farming.
Could this actually work? Or should we let nature return in its due time by allocating the overgrazed area as a sanctuary? That would help preserve the wildlife in the grasslands which would not co-exist with humans. While Allan Savory argues fervently for his cause, it may be better to try the different approaches as strictly following this idea alone may be yet another blunder which may lead to the extinction of the human species as a result!