Holistic planned grazing for drought relief, Zimbabwe

Compendium Volume 2 Number 2 January 2019 r.1

“You must have had a lot more rain because how else can water appear where it has not existed before?” asked Zimbabwe Minister of Water Development Sam Nkomo when he saw a clear water-lily-covered pool that had only come to exist in the upper river catchment two years prior [Savory 2009].

Two herders and their employer Allan Savory explained that “the water had come and stayed through the dry season higher up in the river system than it had ever been known [to] before” [Savory 2009]. But this was not due to more rain than usual. Rather, it was because the ranch had increased its cattle and goat numbers 400% and kept them in one herd, which they constantly moved to fresh grazing land according to the needs of the grasses and plants. Managing grazing this way meant the vegetation got quick, strong periodic treatments of trampling, urine and manure, following which it had sufficient time to recover and regrow. This stimulated thicker vegetation cover and better water absorption into the soil, thus increasing groundwater and streamflow.

Faced with drying wells and silt-filled dams nationwide, Minister Nkomo responded positively to his discovery of Savory’s “holistic planned grazing” for restoring rivers and biodiversity and combating drought. In 2009 when this article was published, plans were underway to replicate this grazing management approach in other Zimbabwe watersheds.

Dimbangombe: Success in Africa, stories and photos by Allan Savory:


Savory, Allan, 2009, Dimbangombe: Success in Africa. Story and photos by Allan Savory, Range Magazine, Fall 2009, http://www.rangemagazine.com/features/fall-09/fa09-what_works.pdf.

For the full PDF version of the compendium issue where this article appears, visit Compendium Volume 2 Number 2 January 2019 r.1