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What is holistic management?

Holistic Management is a decision-making framework primarily associated with an approach to managing livestock. Conceived over 30 years ago by Allan Savory, a biologist and game warden in Zimbabwe, he looked for ways to restore the ecosystems of the Rangelands. You can listen to this TED talk by Allan Savory to understand more about this framework.

Savory understood that nature is made up of integrated ‘wholes’ and that all things are connected. His goal became to help producers see how their overall quality of life – their social and personal as well as economic wellbeing – is intimately connected to the health of the land.

One of his key insights was that grazing animals could be used as tools to increase the fertility and water-holding capacity of the land, while still being raised to provide meat and fibre.

Engaging with producers, he developed Holistic Management, a decision-making framework based on managing complexity on all levels of life, triple-bottom-line thinking, to help people transition to nature-based land management systems.

The three key elements in holistic decision-making are:

  1. the land being managed be broadly defined as a whole, in terms of:
    1. water cycle;
    2. mineral cycle; and
    3. community dynamics and energy flow;
  2. the people responsible for a property’s management work together to articulate what they want, now and in the future, in the form of a ‘holistic goal’ based on their unique goals and cultural values; and
  3. an ongoing checking process where every decision made is considered within the context defined. All proposed actions are evaluated through the lens of the agricultural context to decide whether the intervention goes ahead, or not, or is modified when examined in the light of agreed goals and objectives.

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