Grasslands are one of the world’s most vast and critical landscapes, covering 5.25 billion hectares (13 billion acres) or 40% of Earth’s land mass. The latest IPCC report indicates that 24-29% of these global lands are now facing desertification, a phenomenon of arid and semiarid environments in which productivity and biodiversity are greatly reduced.
Holistic Management was borne out of a desire to reverse desertification and improve upon global grassland management. In doing so it addresses the root cause of many of our global crises.
Carbon & Climate
While a majority of excessive atmospheric carbon is the byproduct of fossil fuel emissions, agriculture and land management are also contributors of greenhouse gas emissions through the creation and usage of petroleum-based fertilizers, conversion of grasslands to croplands, loss of topsoils, and more.
While many forms of land management often degrade landscapes and are net carbon emitters, Holistic Management provides an alternate approach to agriculture that reduces reliance on inputs and increases carbon sequestration through the creation of healthy soils. In multiple peer-reviewed journals, Holistic Management has been shown to regenerate ecosystem function and sequester significant amounts of carbon. While these rates are highly dependent on geography, climate, soil type, and other factors, sequestration rates range from 0.5 to 4 tons of carbon per hectare per year.
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 around the world. Desertification creates large areas of exposed soil which dramatically decreases the effectiveness of rainfall. Water evaporates or runs off instead of soaking into the soil where it is available for plants and living organisms and recharges water tables. This change leads to the increasing frequency and severity of floods and droughts -- even with no change in rainfall in a specific region.
Holistic Planned Grazing increases the organic matter in the soil and therefore increases its ability to hold water, reducing the risk of floods and droughts. For every 1% increase in soil organic matter, soil is able to hold an additional 20,000 gallons of water per acre. Holistic Management teaches land managers to monitor and manage for healthy water cycles as one of the four main ecosystem processes, and research confirms that these teachings translate to real-world results.
Holistic Management equips land stewards with tools and processes to properly manage livestock by mimicking the once vast herds of wild herbivores and their associated pack-hunting predators. Bunched and moving, herbivores are essential for to the productivity of grasslands. Their hooves chip capped soil and trample plant material allowing for seed germination and enhanced water infiltration. Grazing stimulates grass growth, and dung and urine fertilize the soils. When the plants and roots in a grazing area have fully recovered, livestock are returned to once again do what Nature intended. As a result, Holistic Management has been shown to greatly increase productivity of landscapes in all types of environments. This productivity doesn’t only improve profitability and food security, but also enhances wildlife habitat and biodiversity.
Biodiversity & Wildlife
Diversity breeds resilience, and one of the four ecosystem processes taught in Holistic Management – community dynamics – emphasizes the importance of having not just biodiversity but also a succession of lifeforms in various stages of life. With this in mind, farmers and ranchers manage towards a complex mosaic of ecological niches that results in ever greater ecological diversity and succession, building resilience for their landscape. Research shows that Holistic Management improves bioddiversity, both of plant species as well as wildlife.
Food Security & Sovereignty
By equipping farmers, ranchers, and pastoralists to regenerate their land and in turn produce more food and fiber, Holistic Management brings security to grazing communities all around the world. Holistic Management has been shown across a wide variety of environments to drastically improve the soil and productivity of land, enhancing its ability to provide food. As a cost-effective, highly scalable, and nature-based framework, Holistic Management increases profits for landowners without compromising the long term viability of their resource base. Using the communal Holistic Management curriculum, Holistic Management can guide the use of livestock to prepare crop fields, in some instances increasing yields by over four times with no additional inputs.
Poverty & Social Issues
Managing livestock holistically to mimic the behavior of wild herds results in healthier soils that can absorb rainfall and grow more food for people and animals. In the world’s vast grasslands, livestock production is the primary source of livelihood and cultural pride. Healthier land means more livestock, and more livestock means more wealth. The grasslands are also where most grains are grown and when we include holistically managed livestock in the mix with crops, we have demonstrated substantially increased yields as a result of better soil health. Improvements in the effectiveness of the water cycle on any area of land, such as reduced evaporation and runoff, means that water sources are more secure and people, livestock (and wildlife) can stay healthy and resilient. Healthy people and healthy livestock are productive rather than impoverished.