Soukous

Hwange's Dilemma

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@@Allan Savory, I've edited your post above to cut some repetitions: thank you so much for contributing to this debate and I do hope you'll have time to share more of your insights with us here on Safaritalk.

 

It would be amazing to have a group of Safaritalk members involved with ACHM, representing a broad range of different viewpoints. How many members would be interested in such a round table?

 

Matt

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@@Allan Savory:

 

I, too, am grateful for your contribution to this debate. However, I was disappointed by your evangelical approach, which both failed to detail the technical basis which underlies your thesis and to explain the inevitable limits to its application. I am sure that you have dealt with this elsewhere and find it increasingly frustrating to have to repeat yourself. However, as @@egilio pointed out, your views have been criticised by other scientists and your response gives scant acknowledgement of this and makes no attempt to counter such criticisms.

 

In the hope of saving you time in the continuance of this debate to which you have generously agreed to participate, I would, somewhat impertinently, like to proffer my own limited understanding of your views and explain why I think they have both merits and severe limitations. This will provide you with the opportunity to shoot me down in a succinct manner and move things forward:

 

1) Your technique has most to offer in sub humid ecosystems which lack migratory herbivores. In such circumstances, productivity can be increased making better use of otherwise unexploited plant material. You emphasise the "decay cycle" and suggest that burning is a damaging way to deal with surplus dry season vegetation, but that leaving such vegetation to decay by itself in the absence of herbivores capable of using it is equally likely to lead to desertification. In un-burnt, sub humid ecosystems, which lack migratory herbivores, there will almost always be a surplus of plant material which is unusable because it lignifies so fast in the dry season that ruminants can't handle it. Your approach is to introduce flying herds of cattle to exploit this before lignification goes too far. This will result in an overall increase in average annual stocking density and accelerate the decay cycle by replacing old herbage with dung and urine. FWIW, I agree that this makes sense. Alternative approaches might be to block feed urea/molasses or to cut vegetation at the end of the rainy season.

 

2) I believe you have helped conservation greatly by showing that intervention can improve on the laissez faire approach that is typical in many of such current ecosystems. However, it is unlikely to achieve more when relatively high densities of migrating herbivores are present (as in the Serengeti/Mara system). I would, therefore, argue that there are limits to what you can achieve. You appear to suggest that predators will ensure that herbivores never build up to damaging densities. However, I would suggest that there are two exceptions - elephants and people, neither particularly prone to predation and each capable of inflicting severe ecosystem damage. The "Hwange Dilemma" debate tends to centre on the the effect of expanding elephant numbers, created by artificial point sources of water, on soil condition and on plant and animal biodiversity. In my view, you have yet to engage fully with this debate and I greatly look forward to reading further comments from you. I find it difficult, for example, to believe that you think there is no upper limit to acceptable elephant numbers although I can appreciate that you may think that that stage has yet to be reached.

 

I think a "solutions workshop" might be a useful way forward. However, it would be a pity if the delegates were placemen selected by various conservation organisations who had no scientific or technical knowledge of the subject. You framed this proposal in such a way as to suggest that you were hoping to use it for a semi-spiritual crusade to whip up support for your cause. I would prefer to see more discussion on science/technolgy first, with both proponents and opponents of your position represented.

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I'm very interested to read the comments from @@Allan Savory

It is clear that there are some here who hold him in high regard.

 

And those who think he is something of a charlatan - The Guardian's George Monbiot is one of them

 

Eat more meat and save the world: the latest implausible farming miracle

 

In the interests of being even handed, I should point out that Monbiot's article was in turn lambasted by L. Hunter Lovins, also in the Guardian

 

Why George Monbiot is wrong: grazing livestock can save the world

 

also worth reading is Patrick Holden's open letter to George Monbiot

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@@Game Warden @@Allan Savory

@@Allan Savory, I've edited your post above to cut some repetitions: thank you so much for contributing to this debate and I do hope you'll have time to share more of your insights with us here on Safaritalk.

 

It would be amazing to have a group of Safaritalk members involved with ACHM, representing a broad range of different viewpoints. How many members would be interested in such a round table?

 

Matt

Me for one, and I know a quite a few more here in Kasane, Botswana

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How many of the photo operators in Hwange would be willing to get involved?

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Organisations like KAZA and Elephants Without Borders should be involved as well. Is then when SafariTalk becomes SafariDo? I applaud this forum.

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@LastChanceSafaris:

 

I appreciate that you are already an avid convert to the concept of holistic grazing. I. too, think that it may have something to offer in specific situations where biomass is well below carrying capacity (e.g. in much of Zambia). Whether it can be introduced economically is moot.

 

My problem with your suggestion is as follows:

 

By suggesting that organisations get together with Allan Savory at a "solutions-based" conference, you seem already to have determined what the solution should be - that advocated by Savory himself and, maybe, tweaked to become relevant to Hwange.

 

You really ought to appreciate that most scientists with relevant experience have taken the view that Savory's more recent claims as regards the benefits of his system in alleviating climate change are nonsense. However, by grossly overstating his case, he appears to have lost all credibility with most influential and informed critics. In my opinion, this risks "throwing out the baby with the bathwater".

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@LastChanceSafaris:

that Savory's more recent claims as regards the benefits of his system in alleviating climate change are nonsense. However, by grossly overstating his case, he appears to have lost all credibility with most influential and informed critics. In my opinion, this risks "throwing out the baby with the bathwater".

To name a grazing strategy "holistic" is strange. Sounds like a philososphy or a religion. I heard Savory talk about this some 30 years ago and was not impressed. If this is so good, why has it not spread over large areas of the world already?

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This whole holistic grazing idea is very interesting I don’t claim to fully understand it and unfortunately I tend to agree with @@Sverker the word holistic really doesn’t help, type holistic into Google and the first thing that comes up is a Wikipedia entry on holistic health which is a form of alternative medicine. I’ve nothing against alternative medicine if you’re not suffering from anything serious but if it is serious then I’d rather go with proper science based medicine thanks. I suppose also being a fan of the late Douglass Adams his book Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency comes to mind all of which makes it hard for me to take it seriously which is may well be entirely unfair but for that reason I will leave the subject of holistic grazing and go back to some points raised earlier.

 

After a quick search I find that though I haven’t said much about it I have mentioned a couple of times in the past visiting Niassa (this was 9 years ago) there might even be a few photos floating around, I will also say that Imogen and Darren Potgeiter who I met while at Camp Nomade in Zakouma in Chad were both working in Niassa before they moved to Zakouma so the topic of Niassa came up a few times.

 

 

 


 

 

We thought we had a lot of eles in Tanzania and look what happened. We thought we had a lot of eles in Mozambique (Niassa) and look what has happened. We may think we have a lot of eles in Hwange, but with the poachers and hunters running amok in Zim, for how long do you think we'll have a lot of eles in Hwange?

 

I have just got back from Niassa - the challenges and pressures they are having there are extreme, and complex. Its impossible to simplify the situation in response to what you have said above. You have just taken three countries and lumped them into one sentence. Mozambique has just come out of civil war, Niassa size, habitat and remoteness is extraordinary, and Mozambicans are extremely poor. Zimbabwe is feeling the pain of Mugabe for years, - we should be grateful that things aren't a whole lot worse. Tanzania is another completely different situation, which I am still trying to better understand.

 

 

Therefore while I agree with what you say @@Bugs about the remoteness and poverty etc I have to take issue with what you say regarding the war at least as far as ivory poaching is concerned.

 

The civil war in Mozambique ended in 1992 I admit that’s not that long ago but it’s not yesterday either and as far as I know the Niassa Reserve wasn’t actually that badly affected by the civil war, RENAMO at one time had bases in the south of Niassa Province during the war but I don’t think there was much if any fighting going on up in the north where the reserve is.

 

There was probably rather more fighting during the Liberation war when FRELIMO fighters crossed over from Tanzania, there were minefields in the area around Mecula Town though I’m not sure if they dated from the civil war or the liberation war. My guess would be that they dated from the liberation war given that Mecula Town is less than 40 miles from the Tanzanian border as the crow flies but I might be wrong. Undoubtedly there was a good deal of meat poaching going on there during the war and this has certainly continued since it may even be worse now if only because the population is higher and this has had an impact on the game population. With 35,000 people living inside the reserve it is hardly surprising that there is a problem with meat poaching. Although with so much of Niassa being Miombo woodland it was never really an area of high game densities. I would think following the war sometime in the 90s or perhaps even the early 2000s local poachers killed the last black rhino. The elephants however can’t have suffered too badly from poaching during the war because Niassa was at least until sometime in the last decade home to some very impressive tuskers, animals with tusks of a size that no one expected to find in formerly war torn Mozambique.

 

The ivory poaching that has hit Niassa very hard only really started in 2010 and is part of the recent poaching epidemic that has swept across many parts of Africa; I understand that 2 elephants are killed everyday in the reserve. I doubt very much if any of the really big tuskers have survived even those that were hiding out in the patches of montane forest up on the slopes of Serra Mecula. Since this serious elephant poaching has really only happened in the last 5 years I’m really not sure you can say that what has happened in Niassa which seems to mirror what has happened over the border in Selous has much if anything to do with the civil war. Unless you’re just making a general point about the affect the war had on the country as a whole and on the degree of poverty, bad governence, corruption, the availability of guns and such like.

 

RENAMO’s principal base Casa Banana was on the edge of Mt Gorongosa right next to the national park as the rebels were living off the land it’s no wonder that almost all of the large game animal species over a certain size were all but wiped out in Gorongosa NP. RENAMO (or the MNR in English) was essentialy created by the Rhodesian C.I.O. and when Rhodesia became Zimbabwe control was effectively handed lock stock and barrel to South Africa and tusks from the park’s elephants were sent south to help pay for all of the arms that the Apartheid government was supplying to the rebels, so it’s no surprise that when the civil war ended there were only somewhere between 200-300 elephants left in the park. Whereas in Niassa at the end of the war the elephant population was still healthy, certainly as I said before the big tuskers that were there could not have survived if there was serious poaching going on, I’ve not been to Gorongosa but I wouldn’t think there are any even moderately big tuskers there now I don’t know what it was like in the past before the war.

 

This is perhaps getting slightly off topic with regard to Hwange so I will try to post some more regarding some other points that came up earlier.

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Earlier I mentioned an incedent recounted in the book the African Elephant by Roger Di Silvestro

 

In the book The African Elephant Twilight in Eden by Roger Di Silvestro he describes an incident in a (unfortunately unnamed) private reserve in Zimbabwe where they had a herd of 80 very calm habituated elephants that always hung around the lodge area. One day they decided to have a major cull of elephants in the adjoining national park and all of a sudden the elephants in the private reserve disappeared when they searched for them they eventually found them all bunched up together at the farthest end of the reserve as far away as they could get from the national park. The nearest cull had been 40 miles away and yet the elephants in the reserve had cleared picked up messages from the ones in the park. Thus when culling is taking place it is causing stress to elephants in the whole of the surrounding area even ones far away from the actual cull that are not being targeted.

 

Since he does not state the name of either the private reserve or the name of the national park for some reason, this does make it difficult to try and verify this story so I can't say if it is true or not. However there is plenty information to be found on the web regarding elephant infrasound. In the 60s when Iain Douglass-Hamilton was conducting the first behavioural study of elephants in Manyara NP in Tanzania he realised that the elephants must have some unknown means of communication and jokingly suggested that they had ESP. How was it possible that for example two separate groups of elephants coming from different directions could arrive at a waterhole at exactly the same time this sort of thing had been observed far too often for it to be just a coincidence the elephants had to be ‘talking’ to each other in some way.

 

Now we know that they use infrasound that is inaudible to humans and it is also believed that they communicate seismically that elephants can pick up vibrations in the ground with their front feet, the sound travels up their leg bones and ultimately reaches their ears. Aside from the fact that elephants don’t have the best eye sight and when a herd has split up and they are moving through thick bush or woodland the vegetation makes it very difficult for them to see each other. It is therefore assumed that most of the time what they are saying to each other is just “I’m here” because they gain reassurance from knowing that all their family members are close by, when they can’t see them.

 

However it is quite clear that they do use infrasound to send alarm calls warning of danger. I have seen the two films ‘Africa’s Giant Killers’ and ‘Return of the Giant Killers’ about the lion prides in northern Botswana that having taken to hunting calf and subadult elephants undoubtedly having a member of your group attacked by lions would be very stressful given that it can take the lions a long time to bring the elephant down and kill it. However I’m not sure you can compare this to a culling operation a single animal being attcked by lions is hardly the same as every animal in the herd being attacked by a helicopter.

 

The following article on elephant communication describes some research conducted in Etosha on how elephants respond to the recorded warning calls of a herd being threatened by lions when the calls are transmitted seismically.

 

Looking for earth shaking clues to elephant communication

 

If Roger Di Silvestro’s story is actually true then I would assume not that elephants are able to communicate directly over 40 miles by infrasound but that elephants in the park close to those being culled picked up their distress calls and passed them on to the next nearest herd who in turn passed them on until they eventually reached the elephants in the private reserve 40 miles away. I’m not really sure if I entirely believe that, but I am certain that elephants that are close to those being culled will be distressed while the culling is taking place and will be aware that their neighbours are being attacked and killed. Culling is also generally done using helicopters and there is also evidence that the vibrations from the rotors are in fact distressing to elephants.

Here are a couple more articles

 

Elephantoms: Tracking the Elephant

 

An Elephant's Silent Call

 

More to follow

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My apologies for not being able to visit this site often due to work pressures. I would like to repeat, all I am suggesting is getting a concerned group to meet for a solutions retreat at Dimbangombe the learning/training site of the Africa Centre for Holistic Management close to Vic Falls. Attend to discuss solving this situation by addressing the root cause of environmental degradation in the parks and surroundings leading to poverty, social breakdown, inevitable poaching, etc. That root cause is current reductionist management and policy development which is universal world-wide -hence global desertification with all its many symptoms and climate change. Insuch a retreat simply learn how using the holistic framework enables people to address the root cause in a manner that is simultaneously socially, culturally, economically and environmentally sound.

 

I have not suggested any tool or action because no one can sensibly do so without a context for management or policy actions. Anyone even suggesting using cattle would cause conflict. Holistic Management is all about preventing conflict by not discussing any possible action till there is an agreed Holistic Context for actions and people determine what needs to be done for themselves.

 

The origin of the holistic framework has its theory based on Jan Smuts book written in 1926 Holism and Evolution – from which theory both Chaos and Systems Theory developed. And it originated in my striving to understand the destruction of wildlife habitat in national parks, etc and why no civilization had ever been able to prevent global desertification. We do not need to go into any of that but just use the holistic framework that evolved with hundreds of ranchers, wildlifers, pastoralists and fellow scientists assisting me to solve the problem over many years.

 

@@egilio and others are citing critics and thus sowing doubt. There are no serious critics and all who are cited – Briske, Monbiot and others have made no attempt to study Holistic Management. All of them studied various grazing systems – just ask yourselves how you would use any grazing system to analyse a resource management policy? It is somewhat like someone learns to fly – planes sit on three points while on the ground – so someone researches wheelbarrows that rest on three points and proves planes do not fly as claimed.

 

Should you think it is just me saying these alleged critics have made no effort to study what they are critical of please go to the website of Chris Gill in Texas. Chris is a well educated man with a good liberal arts education who owns a large ranch that was in a terrible state when I first visited him. He is passionate about wildlife and so began managing holistically to increase the wildlife and regenerate the soils, soil life and habitat. When he read a book about wildlife management written by 8 academics blasting Holistic Management, claiming it would damage wildlife, this contrasted with what he was experiencing. So he studied all 19 peer-reviewed papers cited. Not only did he read every paper but he also read all the authors they in turn cited. Not a single author had made any effort to study Holistic Management. When he confronted the 8 eminent authors of the book all refused to communicate or retract. I am afraid this is simply the normal behaviour of institutional scientists when faced with truly new paradigm-shifting ideas. And I repeat this is what John Ralston Saul, who exhaustively studied major world-wide blundering concluded in his large best-selling book “Voltaire’s Bastards” - “The reality is that the division of knowledge into feudal fiefdoms of expertise has made general understanding and coordinated action not simply impossible but despised and distrusted…..In many ways the differences between various languages today are less profound than the differences between the professional dialects within each language. Any reasonably diligent person can learn one or two extra tongues. But the dialect of the accountant, doctor, political scientist, economist, literary historian or bureaucrat is available only to those who become one".

 

@@douglaswise is disappointed by my “evangelical approach”, which both failed to detail the technical basis which underlies my thesis and to explain the inevitable limits to its application. I am sorry if I seem evangelical to some and I thought I did outline at some length what constitutes universal reductionist management and what constitutes Holistic Management. In essence two main distinctions – in the former management and policy actions have as their context or reason the problem (for example excessive elephant poaching). Examples everywhere – drug policy reason kids taking too many drugs, terrorism policy to address terrorism. And the only tools with which to manage our environment are technology in some form, fire or resting the environment. Using the holistic framework in place of this genetically embedded way, people simply develop a Holistic Context tying people’s lives to their life-supporting environment and this forms the overarching context for management actions, and they accept that it is simply not possible to reverse man-made desertification without the use of large animals used as tools. Using this holistic framework we also submit any contemplated action to seven context checking questions to ensure the action is socially, economically and environmentally sound both short and long term. Profoundly simple and easier to develop policy with complete agreement and no conflict because most people in the world are wanting the same things.

 

Just as the genetically embedded way of managing is universal from a single person in a city to a family, community or nation’s governance, so too is the holistic framework able to be used universally. So when you @@douglaswise state (I accept in seeking answers) that my technique has most to offer in sub humid ecosystems which lack migratory herbivores this simply is not the case. Recently when running a holistic policy development workshop at the prestigious Fletcher Policy School of Tufts University we used many marine cases – shrimp fisheries, disappearing cod prey fish, etc.

 

@@douglaswise you also state “it would be a pity if the delegates were placemen selected by various conservation organizations who had no scientific or technical knowledge of the subject” Please do not worry about this because there are no experts on Holistic Management which is what we would look at. You will learn where and when expertise is brought into policy development. Experts are by definition just that, and as Saul noted can be problematic when policy is developed with far broader considerations than their area of expertise. The finest candle makers could neither conceive of, nor develop, electric lights that required an entirely different paradigm.

 

You also state “You framed this proposal in such a way as to suggest that you were hoping to use it for a semi-spiritual crusade to whip up support for you cause.” I am sorry anything I wrote is seen as semi-spiritual, or in any way furthering a personal cause. For sixty years I have been deeply concerned at the fate of Africa’s wildlife and striving, with other like-minded scientists, to not get caught up in complaining and endlessly talking about what needs to be done, but to find a way to genuinely save them in the wild. This I believe we now have if you are open to investigating and learning on site.

 

Lastly @@Sverker says to name a grazing strategy holistic is strange and that it sounds like a philosophy or religion – if this is so good why has it not spread over large areas of the world? It has. First I have no grazing strategy. Second, we have lost count of the number of hectares on which people are managing holistically when it shot over 20 million hectares on six continents. More than twenty universities at which my textbook is being used, first ones offering degree course. Now about 30 locally led and managed Holistic Management learning hubs from Chile and Argentina to Turkey, Sweden, UK, in the US, Mexico and more – currently some 90 applications to be accepted as part of this global network from 16 countries. All new Holistic Management hub leaders by request train at Dimbangombe the ACHM ranch, and in the last batch a couple of months ago were included the first university led hub (Michigan State University). This global spread is thankfully accelerating as the last of the academic opposition, that has held up progress for over fifty years, dies down.

 

Frankly I am not going to be able to try to teach Holistic Management on this site and this is not the place to do so. I would like to ignore further criticisms unless something new arises, which we always seek – I have appealed (and two weeks ago repeated this when I gave a Schumacher lecture in New York) to all scientists to let me, and the world, know if they can find any flaw in either the logic or the science in Holistic Management. There is nothing to defend and the seriousness of global desertification and climate change is far too great to worry about me or my ego if someone can find a better way to deal with complexity in management and policy. For the moment this is the best we have.

 

If people participating in this forum, as I know is the case, truly want to permanently save elephant and rhino in the wild I believe you will help get a solutions retreat going – there is everything to gain and nothing to lose in learning something new offering such hope.

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@ Allan Savory:

 

You repeat your invitation to attend a "solutions retreat" in order that attendees can learn "something new". You see the purpose as "simply learn how the holistic approach framework enables people to address the root cause .....". Surely, you could acknowledge the possibility of several solutions? Were there to be consensus amongst attendees about the best (or "least bad") solution, would it, by definition, be defined as being holistic? Would the consensus not be likely to depend upon the composition of the group attending, regardless of their prior knowledge?

 

I have tried to grasp an understanding of the principles upon which your system is based, but haven't really been helped by your contributions in this thread. I think I'm correct in thinking that you advocate the creation of an environment in which grazers and plant communities are balanced such that maximum productivity is achieved. (I agree). You seem to focus on situations where grazers are inadequate in numbers to effect your goal. You make no mention of the possibility that, in some situations (and I suspect that Hwange might be an example), animal biomass might be overwhelming the ability of plant communities to respond and that this might increase rather than decrease desertification.

 

You suggest that existing management solutions are based on technology, fire or rest and that all will fail. Instead, you call for holistic management. But holistic management appears to be beyond conventional definition. If it works, its holistic. If an unsuccessful attempt at holistic management is made, then it wasn't implemented correctly. Clearly, this retrospective judgement allows claims of success for a system that appears infinitely variable. Can I hang on to a belief that it based around a proposition that "the decay cycle" needs to be optimised - something you mentioned in your first communication here? That, at least, would be a starting point. Or is it only sometimes about decay optimisation?

 

I understand that you, yourself, suggested in the past that the "Charter Grazing Trials" were the only trials that you had undertaken to have established and demonstrated the benefits of your holistic approach. However, when other scientists attempted to reproduce them without success, you use tricycle/aeroplane analogies rather that scientific refutation to counter them.

 

When making claims that your approach leads to sufficient carbon sequestration to have a significant impact on climate change, to what extent have you factored in the extra methane that more ruminant grazers will release, bearing in mind that methane is one hundred times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas in the short term (decadal scale) and 20 times more on a century scale? Do you accept that trees sequester more carbon than grass and that Hwange elephants are reducing tree cover?

 

I do not rule out attendance at a workshop or retreat - assuming that it has compatible timing and that I could afford the airfares. However, were I to do so, I would hope for more tangible explanations than have so far been provided. I would love to believe in your solutions and I do believe that, in limited situations, they could have a role to play. However, your two responses to date on this site have increased rather than decreased my misgivings.

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@douglaswise Please don’t waste your time with things like Charter trials -20 years before we finally broke through with a simple way of consistently addressing complexity in all management and policy situations. I suggest don’t waste time with alleged critics who have never even attempted to study Holistic Management but have held up progress for many years. For the present I ask that you trust that good scientists and intelligent people doing their due diligence looked at all that academic mainly criticism before granting the Banksia and Buckminster Fuller awards, or before ACHM became a finalist in the largest prize ever in science. Such ridicule and opposition is the normal behaviour of “experts” in the prevailing paradigm when face with truly new ideas so well described by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolution. Put simply the finest expert candle makers probably reacted in similar fashion when faced with the discovery of electric lighting. Frankly I am not going to respond to any hacking over old ground that does not take us forward.

 

If you or anyone wants to understand more about the development of Holistic Management you can read the textbook Holistic Management: A New Decision Making Framework. Second edition. 1999. Island Press. Dated now but my wife and I are writing the third edition.

 

What we have learned is that to address the full complexity in any policy or management situation it is essential to address all of the social/cultural, economic and environmental complexity. This is done guided by a Holistic Context. This is a new concept not in any branch of science, philosophy or religion. Currently management and policy universally has the context, or reason, for actions reduced to things like – the problem faced (excessive poaching, kids using too many drugs, terrorists bombing our planes, profit, need, desire and so on).

 

As I wrote, I cannot and am not going to try to teach or coach over this or any other internet. There are self training materials available from the Savory Institute – but do not waste your time with those in this case. If we can bring about a solutions retreat I will take all involved to a more advanced level than the training available for the public at this point.

 

I fully accept this is all mumbo jumbo to most at this point. Let me make it concrete with one example.

 

We have no more contentious issue in Zimbabwe than the land and agriculture policy. Because of past “political capital and trust” I was able to run a short workshop three years ago for 35 MPs – similar to what I would do at a solutions retreat. The atmosphere was tense with MPs from parties with violently opposed views. ACHM staff pleaded with me not to tackle land and agriculture because it would blow up.

 

I began the workshop by reminding those MPs of a speech by Mugabe in the early days when he was still trying to govern reasonably. In that he said “We have no greater problem than our rising population and deteriorating environment. We politicians do not know what to do. We can only take the advice of our professional advisors, but when it goes wrong we get the blame.”

 

I then explained simply how all governments, development agencies, etc develop policy universally without any exception – and explained how we can do better using the holistic framework to develop policy. I pointed out we had none of their professional advisors present and that they are law makers. And then suggested we tackle land and agriculture policy together to see what might be possible.

 

I had all agree on a Holistic Context – how all people in Zimbabwe want their lives to be. How that could be tied to our life-supporting environment so future generations could live such lives. The moment we had this Holistic Context the entire atmosphere changed. Suddenly we had not Zanu Pf, MDC etc but 35 Zimbabweans working together. No one raised any political issue, no one raised any lobbying point of view, no one defended any present beliefs or attitudes – and if anyone had they would have looked stupid.

 

From there I simply asked questions and had them respond starting with what the role of government was in such policy, and if any what resources could government bring to bear to resolve all present problems in this Holistic Context. By the end we had a clear strategy as to how a policy could be developed with full support of everyone in the country, and that if implemented would result in several main things:

· No need to go back on the present theft of farms with some now owning several farms.

· All farms would be fully productive or change hands through economic pressure not political.

· Millions of people would move back to the land working on farms.

· The country would be the first in history producing more food than eroding soil.

· There would be no need for third party endorsements such as organic, sustainable – because all food would be clean, nutritious and produced on regenerating soil.

· Rivers and boreholes would be flowing again.

· Government revenue would increase at lower cost.

We used no knowledge not already available. The problem never has been any lack of knowledge but reductionist policy development by narrowly trained “experts”.

 

I need not go on as I am sure you get the point. There were two immediate reactions. First anger and sadness mixed asking why when so many World Bank and other consultants had advised no one had ever shown how easy it was to develop policy. The second was an appeal to repeat this at cabinet level. This we intend doing when Zimbabwe has some semblance of government, which we don’t currently enjoy. Meanwhile the cabinet (for what it is worth) has formed a standing committee of all heads of Ministries to bring Holistic Management about in Zimbabwe. This will not happen in the present chaos, but at least we made that much progress and theoretically the structure is in place should there be a window of opportunity.

 

I can only hope you and others in this thread see the similarities with Hwange and its surrounding lands and people on such horrifically desertifying land. Land degradation in the park and all around it are inseparable from poverty, social breakdown and poaching. And culling is no solution in the park as I more than any am aware.

 

When managing, or developing policy, holistically with a Holistic Context as is needed it is an absolute No No to suggest any action – culling, hunting, protecting, fire, any use of any tool – without a context or reason for that action. Doing so invites conflict and Holistic Management, as in the land policy case, prevents conflict. That is why I will say no more than suggest we enable everyone to solve this situation using the holistic framework.

 

I can tell you now this is not going to work unless well planned by a group of you working with me. Essentials are:

 

· Identifying someone with what is called convening power. If they ask the needed people they will come. If you or I ask they will not come and at best may send someone junior.

· The retreat has to be attended by influential representative of safari hunters, those academics who believe culling is the solution to the degradation of Hwange, Chobe, Zambezi national parks, local Chiefs and government (at least head of National Parks), the Bingos largely dictating policy (WWF, IUCN, TNC etc), US Fish & Wildlife putting international pressure on local wildlife management.

 

The right person with convening power your group may know – your associates has to include influential people surely. If your group combined with me we might get someone like Prince Charles as convener – he is already so supportive of Holistic Management with close associates of his in the UK developing one of the global hubs we have. Or Botswana folks may be close enough to Prince William. Who else does your group perhaps know who is influential enough?

 

I can only bring in the Chiefs because they are with myself permanent trustees of ACHM. And I might be able to bring in Zimbabwe government, but an influential convener would guarantee that.

 

If we succeed in this venture I know it will lead to solutions in other situations I see are of concern to people on your site.

 

If there is enough interest in your group to pursue this suggested way forward and if it cannot be achieved in one step then we could do it in two phases. By that I mean the most influential group you can form visit Dimbangombe. See the results of Holistic Management, and run through a mock retreat and then plan a strategy to bring about a higher level retreat.

 

If we continue with present policy formation and with many concerned groups putting forward various actions, competing for funds and validity of their action everyone and the elephants will be losers. If we can get the right people to a retreat, and it results in policy being developed holistically, I know everyone will be heard and sound policy will emerge. We will enjoy many more elephants (and rhino) and vastly more wildlife doing no damage, while playing a vital role in the lives and economy in the region.

 

I believe all of you concerned perhaps need to discuss this suggestion amongst yourselves leaving me out. If it makes sense and you want to pursue it then perhaps a smaller group could work with me to bring it about, either in one step which you may not be ready for yet, or in phased steps.

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I feel like that kid in the classroom in that Gary Larsson comic, with his hand raised saying "Please sir, may I go now, my brain is full"...

 

I've tried to follow this thread and glean from it what is proposed (in a practical sense as opposed to theoretical) for Hwange, but I confess I cannot filter that out of all this holistic theory??

Can someone in a single paragraph please summarise what the practical proposition is?

 

Apologies in advance for my lack of comprehension!

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@ZaminOz::

 

Don't know about Larsson's child. However, do you think the "Emperor's New Clothes" would fit?

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@ZaminOz::

 

Don't know about Larsson's child. However, do you think the "Emperor's New Clothes" would fit?

 

:D

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@@douglaswise @@Sverker Do you think these last two posts add value to this discussion?

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@@douglaswise @@Sverker Do you think these last two posts add value to this discussion?

 

Not at all.

 

At the same time, I have yet to find any substance in any of Savory´s contributions regarding Hwange´s dilemma.

 

I have browsed through articles on the Internet. The word "holistic" is used in every other sentence, but is explained poorly or not at all.

 

Maybe HM (holistic management) should have it´s own thread in Safaritalk, and the discussion could go back to the Hwange dilemma.

 

My take is that artificial waterholes should be closed down, but

 

- how many?

- for how long?

- combined with culling?

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@@Game Warden:

 

Does my latest comment add value to the discussion? Maybe, as an indication of frustration at Allan Savory's contributions to this thread. When @@LastChanceSafaris gave him such glowing references and persuaded him to comment here, I was delighted. I was aware of his reputation and was looking forward to an elucidation of the principles and practices he applied to increasing animal productivity in an ecologically sustainable manner and, at the same time, reversing desertification.

 

However, holistic grazing appears to have morphed into holistic management, applicable to all ecosystems including marine ones. I do not believe I'm alone in being confused. Perhaps, @@LastChanceSafaris could persuade his champion to get on track or, failing that, to speak for him?

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@@douglaswise @@Sverker @ZaminOz:: @@Game Warden @@Allan Savory

 

Collins English Dictionary...

Holism = a methodological thesis holding that the significance of the parts can only be understood in terms of their contribution to the significance of the whole and that the latter must therefore be epistemologically prior

Holistic = of or relating to a doctrine of holism

 

Firstly I must beg forgiveness for my lack of response - safari duties have been calling.

I did say in one of my earlier posts that I wanted to put a leopard amongst the guineafowl!!! Seems like I have succeeded.

I cannot speak on behalf of Allan as suggested, however, I am a convert, despite the wholly unwanted 'evangelical' connotation that it brings. Why? Simply because the reductionist thinking/policy making I have been taught from Grade 1 to post grad and beyond has never adequately satisfied all my conservationist concerns, including the Hwange Dilemma. I watch, time and again, as policies fail like falling dominoes. When I met Allan it was a little bit of a eureka moment for me ('seeing the light' to further tongue-in-cheek the religious implication). Admittedly I had a weekend to pick his rather substantial brain so I think (?) I understand the principle of Context based management that strives to be continually cognisant of multiple layers of variables in a constant state of flux or to put it a little more succinctly - Holistic Management. I also understand that the principle can be applied to just about every facet of policy making, once a context has been established, though I personally am only concerned with its effect on contemporary conservation that in itself strives to include all ecological processes, socio-economics, etc. I, perhaps wrongly, latched onto the success of Dimbangombe as a repeatable formula for similar areas, like Hwange. In truth it isn't truly repeatable because the CONTEXT may be different and this is the starting point.

 

As a lapsed academic (25+ years!) I feel the plethora of positive peer reviews and distinguished peer awards that HM successes have garnered more than adequately outweighs the critics and that is good enough for me. Honestly, if 35 Zim politicians 'get it' then surely the intellect I have experienced on this forum can as well. If the principle of HM can be applied to the Hwange Dilemma and the subsequent policies and practices (even, God forbid, grazing cattle in the NP) are implemented I have every faith (damn, can't seem to lose that religious metaphor) it will no longer be a dilemma. I have a somewhat tenuous connection to some of our Honourable Ministers and if a reputable convener (HRH Charlie!) could get such a retreat together, they may very well step up.

 

In my rather limited SafariTalk experience, I believe those two comments were rather severe 'off roading' - unless the CV's and international awards of the commentators are comparable with those of the target.

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That some of you are puzzled or confused is understandable. That is why I wrote saying it might be mumbo jumbo to you. We are in early stage of the second great shift in world-view – the first from a flat world that the sun went around to understanding the world is not flat and goes round the sun. The second we are in is the shift from a mechanistic world view to a holistic world-view. Do not worry about this unless you would like to read Jan Smuts “Holism and Evolution” 1926. Einstein wrote that two mental constructs would impact the world greatly – his own and that of Smuts.

 

What Smuts theorized we have over the years learned to bring into practice in a profoundly simple way that even illiterate people can learn and practice. So all of you would I assure you ‘get it’ and quickly – if we were not having to write about it, but simply do it in any situation, like I was able to do with the MPs. Think of it like me trying use this forum to tell you how to ride a bike. Writing and describing would cause confusion and you would end up in frustration saying for goodness sake show me how to do it. But if we were together with a bike showing you, and then you dong it, that would be easy and it would come quickly as it did for all of us.

 

Every situation we manage is complex and we cannot ignore all of that social, political, emotional, economic and environmental complexity. We do in the way we manage today. I could right now participate, as others are doing and wanting me to do – suggest closing water points, opening more water points, culling elephants because of the damage, more law and anti-poaching enforcement, use smarter technology to trace poached tusks or rhino horns, bring cattle into Hwange, ban all hunting, increase hunting by local people, and so on endlessly. Each suggestion will elicit discussion, emotion, possible conflict or public anger and people get into clusters supporting one or another suggestion, vying for validity of their champion idea and competing often for funds. That I solemnly promise is what we have always done for centuries and it simply is not working.

 

Some want to continue that approach, but I would advise against it and guarantee failure. I am suggesting something new but easier that prevents any conflict even developing, gets environmental organizations, hunters, non-hunters, local people, government all seeing what needs to be done and fully supporting the management of the park and of all the surrounding lands. Something I know will result in far more elephants not doing damage, and better lives for the people surrounding parks with poachers in greater danger than elephants or rhino that we can then bring back fully in the wild.

 

In my last post I ended suggesting if this was too much for people to achieve in one step (getting a solutions retreat with the right people present) then it could be phased. By that I mean start with a group of influential people you select (include the greatest skeptics) and spend two days with me on Dimbangombe – see Holistic Management in practice and understand it better. Then that group work with me to expand the group toward achieving a retreat with the right people present in any way we jointly think will work. As I hope all recall I did say I cannot and will not try to teach this on this thread because I cannot anymore than teach riding bike simple as that is.

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@LastChanceSafaris:

 

"His Master's Voice" indeed. I'm still none the wiser. I am now struggling with the meaning of the "reductionist thinking/policy making" that blighted your early learning experience. I did, however, learn that, at least as far as conservation is concerned, it (whatever "it" is) generally fails. However, I am asked to believe that "context based management that strives to be cognisant of multiple layers of variables in a constant state of flux" will generally have a benign outcome. Perhaps the terms "psychobabble" or "gobbledygook" would have been better than my earlier "emperor's new clothes" comment to which you took such exception.

 

I understand that you no longer think that the lessons of Dimbangombe could be applied to Hwange because you have since looked up the definition of holistic management and realised that the context and variables might be different. Perhaps you had initially used reductionist thinking in concluding that we could learn from the former. Anyway, you tell us that we can't necessarily rule out the introduction of cattle.

 

It is difficult, from your promotional avatar, to tell whether you are Phil or Grant. Having read the comment that you're a "lapsed academic (25+ years)" it seems inconsistent with either CV on your website (unless you time the start of your academic career from your arrival at primary school).

 

I really would like some practical suggestions - not necessarily a definite formula - from either you or Allan about the types of things that might contribute to the solution of the Hwange Dilemma, stated in a manner that can be understood by simpletons such as myself. Thank you in advance.

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if implemented would result in several main things:

· No need to go back on the present theft of farms with some now owning several farms.

· All farms would be fully productive or change hands through economic pressure not political.

· Millions of people would move back to the land working on farms.

· The country would be the first in history producing more food than eroding soil.

· There would be no need for third party endorsements such as organic, sustainable – because all food would be clean, nutritious and produced on regenerating soil.

· Rivers and boreholes would be flowing again.

· Government revenue would increase at lower cost.

This is just a wish list or a prayer which everybody want to be true in the future.

 

I don´t think that "holistic" could fix it. Reality doesn´t listen to prayers.

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For me, one of the major problems with the ideas put forward by @@Allan Savory is his reluctance to use plain English.

Confusing us all with waffle does not further the argument

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@LastChanceSafaris I will wait to see if others feel as you do, or if they understand what I am saying. Just on Utube today is a lecture last week to the prestigious Schumacher Institute – perhaps look at that and see if it helps. Link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrBauQO2sI4

 

While I wait to see how others respond let me try to answer your concerns . You state I did, however, learn that, at least as far as conservation is concerned, it (whatever "it" is) generally fails. However, I am asked to believe that "context based management that strives to be cognisant of multiple layers of variables in a constant state of flux" will generally have a benign outcome.”

 

All conscious human actions are context based. You do not clean your teeth without a reason/context. It is here (context for actions) that a major problem lay undetected for centuries – so simple it was below our radar). For centuries, ever since humans developed policies to deal with problems, that context in policy has been, and is universally today, so obvious we appear stupid to even question the reason – it is always “the problem being addressed.” That problem can be any problem from our kids taking too many drugs, religious organizations bombing other organizations churches, accelerating commercial poaching, noxious plants invading, too many immigrants, disappearing endangered species, and so on endlessly.

 

When we reduce the social, cultural, political, economic, environmental complexity – that is real and cannot be avoided -- to the problem as the context or reason for policy, it is so simplistic that it is like having a policy to light fires with no reason. In this discussion group, all of the suggested actions and potential solutions that I have read have in common the same reason, circumstance or context – the dilemma of Hwange. None of you are even questioning that and it would seem silly to even do so it is so obvious. I have not had the time to read through the many other discussions on this site – but it would be unusual if other threads are not discussing problems and thus what I am saying would be relevant to all of them.

 

What we have learned is that such simple/obvious context for policy leads to disappointing results, and often to damaging unintended consequences. US drug policy for example resulting in increased drug use, violence spreading across borders and more people now in jail than Stalin had at the height of his rule. So universal are unplanned consequences of our management and policy actions that we have the term “Law of unintended consequences” economists talk of. And what we have discovered is that we get totally different results if we use a Holistic Context in which to solve the same problems – that (Holistic Context) is a new concept not found in any branch of science, religion or philosophy.

 

When we develop any policy using a Holistic Context it is essential to do so correctly. Vital that people do not talk of specific possible ways of addressing the problem before they have an agreed Holistic Context within which the problem is to be solved. When everyone, as we have right now, has the problem as the context for policy actions in their heads, suggesting almost any possible action will always be opposed by others and lead to conflict.

 

You write – “I really would like some practical suggestions - not necessarily a definite formula - about the types of things that might contribute to the solution of the Hwange Dilemma, stated in a manner that can be understood by simpletons such as myself. Thank you in advance.” As I understand this, being a simpleton myself, you want me to tell you we should cull elephants to keep their number in balance with what the land can sustain (supported by the researchers having no other solution), strengthen the law and enforce it (wanted by some), stop all hunting (wanted by many) not do any culling, increase safari hunting, run cattle in national parks (opposed by everyone), and I could go on endlessly with suggested specific actions that I can guarantee you will result in conflict, anger, ridicule and stop all progress. Why? Because everyone has the sole and obvious context of the Hwange dilemma and people will champion the “solution” they most believe will solve the problem. And this (presenting any specific action) I will not do. Been there done that - as they say! I long ago learned any fool can start a conflict, but they are incredibly difficult to end. I do hear and empathize with your frustration – tell us what specifically might be done – but do not tell us how to solve the problem!

 

Because I have over the years trained thousands of scientists and policy makers to analyze or develop policy holistically I already know what the Holistic Context is likely to look like when and if we can get all interested parties to a solutions retreat. And knowing this I do already know what specific actions are likely to be acceptable to everyone – even the safari hunters, environmentalists and worst poachers will agree – and policy involving those specific actions will lead to an incredible solution. But without a Holistic Context first I also know almost everyone of those groups would fight and argue while the situation deteriorated for years.

 

The Hwange dilemma is similar to the case I gave earlier of the 35 Zimbabwean MPs in total disagreement and conflict over land and agriculture. Every specific action ever put forward results in increasing conflict and disagreement. But coming together and with my facilitation first developing a Holistic Context everyone agreed upon, the atmosphere changed and they were able to work out a clear, simple solution meeting the needs of any sane person. And what I did not say is we were also able to develop the strategy that could bring the whole nation behind and supporting such policy. And again I know that we can do the same thing with Hwange – but we can only do it if we use the holistic framework that is 50 years new and not the mechanistic framework that has been failing for centuries.

 

So let me wait and see how many people are simply confused by this as you are, or if some can understand. Remember I am not suggesting anything but getting the right people to a solutions retreat to discuss all this on land right in the centre of major national parks all desertifying and losing biodiversity seriously. Land where with the same soils, vegetation, humans and weather all life is increasing dramatically in direct contrast to Hwange, Chobe, Zambezi national parks, and all the surrounding land, on which people live and that is getting worse every year increasing poverty, social breakdown, poaching and other problems. I hope I have helped you but let’s wait and see if enough people in this discussion understand enough to want to move forward.

 

I will not respond to others saying I am just using confusing words, etc. Other than to say that if I was here trying to explain how to ride a bicycle no one had heard of or ever seen it would be equally confusing. However if we had a bike and were around it showing you how, all would learn quickly without confusion. Illiterate people learn to manage holistically with training materials now in picture form but if I posted all those training materials on this site it would I assure only add to confusion.

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