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ALERT Communities Trust Partners with Africa Centre for Holistic Management


David Youldon

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Dear Friends

Our latest newsletter is now available for download at www.lionalert.org. See below for a list of this month's features, but our main feature is shown in full here on Safaritalk.

• On the 19th January, Sango and Swahili, now 16-months old, were on a morning walk…

• Trying to think of what you could study for your dissertation? Maybe you have an idea but are not sure how to work out the logistics! Worry no more…

• The ALERT Communities Trust is proud to announce a partnership with the Africa Centre for Holistic Management…

• Continuing health checks at Antelope Park…

• Introducing…

• Support Jana to run the London Marathon in aid of ALERT…

• Lincoln Lions support African lions…

• Lion Fact File: Predatory Behaviour in African Lions…

• The Last Roar…Haven’t decided what to get your valentine yet? ALERT has the perfect idea for you with one of our unique gifts…

The ALERT Communities Trust is proud to announce a partnership with the Africa Centre for Holistic Management…
A partnership has been formed to undertake joint projects to promote, through Holistic Management, the reversal of land degradation / desertification in communal areas that will bring economic, environmental and social benefits to the communities that we work with whilst bringing greater opportunities for wildlife to thrive through human / wildlife conflict mitigation and education.

Communal lands, like almost all seasonal rainfall environments worldwide, have been deteriorating alarmingly over many years. Using methodology developed originally in Zimbabwe but now being applied on over 30 million acres worldwide, we will, in this partnership be helping people to begin improving their land and their lives permanently. Because the ultimate fate of all wildlife, including herbivores and predators is dependent on habitat, what is good for people is also good for wildlife.

The Africa Centre for Holistic Management has its own land under Holistic Management near to Victoria Falls. Here people can learn about what sort of future they can build for themselves. This ranch, under Holistic Management, has increased livestock numbers 400% higher than when it was formerly deteriorating badly. The river arising on the ranch now has open water 1.5km higher up the vlei than has been known before, even through most dry seasons.

And the wildlife is continually increasing.

All this has been done using livestock to heal land and restore water in a people and predator friendly manner.

What is Holistic Management?

Forty years ago, Allan Savory, then a young wildlife biologist in his native Zimbabwe, wished to solve the riddle of desertification. Savory concluded that the spread of deserts, the loss of wildlife, and the human impoverishment that always resulted were related to the way people made decisions, whether or not those people lived or worked on the land.

The principles of Holistic Management developed to regenerate deteriorating rangelands by increasing cattle, rather than destocking. From these beginnings Holistic Management expanded over the years to enabling people, while healing their land, to live more prosperous and harmonious lives.

Holistic Management replaces fragmentary decision-making and short-term solutions with a decision making process that consistently links people’s values and culture to their land that sustains them.

These proven holistic practices yield a “triple bottom line” of sustainable economic, environmental and social benefits by:

• Improving soil health and biodiversity of rangelands and pastures;
• Increasing grazing and wildlife capacity;
• Increasing annual profits and enhancing livelihoods;
• Optimally using rainfall and conserving water;
• Growing healthier crops and achieving higher yields;
• Reversing desertification in brittle environments;
• Breaking the cycle of food and water insecurity;
• Enhancing family relationships;

These benefits are achieved with resources the land manager already has in place. Whether land is used for ranching, organics production, food production in pastoral communities or public lands preservation, or even if it is unused, it can be returned to health and its productivity greatly increased without large infusions of cash, equipment or technology.

Africa Centre for Holistic Management (ACHM)

In 1992, the Africa Centre for Holistic Management in Zimbabwe was launched just outside the town of Victoria Falls on a 6,500-acre property known as Dimbangombe Ranch mentioned earlier. The centre has two main roles: firstly it manages the ranch as a Holistic Management learning site that demonstrates how livestock can be used to restore deteriorating landscapes and lost wildlife habitat. Secondly the Dimbangombe College of Wildlife, Agriculture and Conservation Management provides Holistic Management training to the local community and beyond from the Cape to Ethiopia.

Since its inception, the Africa Centre has worked to the following long-term objectives:

1. Establish an international training facility and learning site--one that serves as a working example of Holistic Management in practice on the land and in local communities--and one that brings governments, scientists and local communities together, working in collaboration at all levels.

2. Empower the people in the neighbouring communal lands (some 145,000 people) to become self-sufficient and to achieve a long-term sustainable future of their own design.

3. Restore desertifying land in Zimbabwe and develop a model program that can be implemented anywhere in Africa.

4. Enhance the survival of threatened wildlife populations by working to restore damaged habitat, and to improve the quality of life for the people living among and around them.

5. Research and document the successful use of livestock and wild ungulates to ‘recycle’ old vegetation--as an alternative to fire, which is damaging both to land and wildlife, creating serious atmospheric pollution, and contributing to global climate change.

Restoring Land and Livelihoods.

The Hwange District Community, which incorporates communal areas surrounding Victoria Falls, is enormous, covering over a million acres of rapidly deteriorating land on which over 145,000 people attempt to subsist on livestock, marginal cropping areas, and wildlife. These communal lands are within or are contiguous to a number of wildlife areas including the Zambezi National Park, Hwange National Park as well as a number of forestry and hunting zones.

The partnership will extend the work of the Africa Centre for Holistic Management in the following areas:

Land Management

ACHM has, for some years now, piloted a new way of managing land for livestock grazing in a number of villages and has invited ACT to assist them to extend the program further.

Individual families are encouraged to bring their herds together overnight in guarded, moveable, lion-proof kraals. These are easily moved once a week to a new location leaving behind an area that has been hoof-tilled and organically fertilized. This greatly enriched land can be used to grow crops which have shown significantly higher productivity levels therefore bringing greater nutritional and economic value to the farmer.

During the day the community’s livestock, in a joint herd, is grazed using a planning process that ensures no overgrazing takes place no matter how many animals are in the herd. The herd is kept tightly packed to achieve the beneficial effects of trampling, dunging and urinating for a short period of time, maybe even as short as 15 minutes, before moving on to the next area. This use of high animal impact with no overgrazing of plants leads to all four of the processes through which our eco-system functions to perform better. These processes govern how water and nutrient minerals cycle in the environment and how biological communities relate to one another and sunlight energy flows through plants to support people, economy and all life. This all leads to greater energy flow, which provides for more forage production, which translates into the land’s ability to withstand higher stocking rates and more wildlife. Ultimately Holistic Management makes more profit for the farmer with greater economic resilience.

Elephant-Proof Crop Fields

Elephants can consume a family’s entire food supply for the year in a single night. In recent years a number of elephants have been shot in an effort to prevent raids on large, poorly protected fields that in fact yield very little. One village farmer agreed to work with the Africa Centre staff on a promising alternative that has already attracted the attention of other farmers: Elephant Proofing. A trench, one meter deep by one meter wide is dug around the field deterring elephants, which cannot jump. A row of chilli plants, also a deterrent, is planted in the trench. Finally, a fence of woven twigs is constructed between the trench and the field.

The elephant proof fields are managed using livestock as described earlier meaning smaller fields are required to produce more food. The first demonstration field that was impacted by cattle and trenched produced 15 times the yield of adjacent fields.

Village Banking

To reduce hunger while elevating the most vulnerable families out of poverty through the conversion of an on-going micro-lending program to one based on goats as the currency.

The Africa Centre had launched a village banking program that eventually served 500 women who used the profits from their microenterprises to feed their families and send their children to school. By using livestock as the currency ACHM could more than match Zimbabwe’s inflation: not only do they maintain their value, they also produce offspring, thus outpacing inflation. Five banks, of 20 families each, have been formed following six weeks of training in the three pilot communities.

Each family has been loaned 10 goats (a minimum of 9 females) for three years. Interest is due annually (3 goats per annum) until the loan is repaid. (Interest payments provide the goats needed to start new banks). Goats were selected as the currency because they often kid more than once a year and can also produce twins. In theory, this reproductive rate should allow families to grow their herds, while consuming some animals, selling others, and repaying their loans.

Gender and HIV Awareness

To effectively address the long-standing prohibition against female ownership of livestock, the issues of safe family sexual practices, and the stigma of those living with HIV, through gender empowerment training to the male and female heads of household participating in the goats-as currency banks.

This objective became necessary because women are often culturally (but not legally) prohibited from owning livestock in Zimbabwe, but equally important, they generally have little say in the matter of when animals are to be sold, and how the income will be used. Women now head a growing number of families in Zimbabwe, a trend that is likely to continue due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

A diagnosis of HIV-positive is essentially a death sentence that leaves behind orphans who must assume the roles of adults, and grandparents who must again become parents. The stigma of the survivors and those who contract the disease further compounds the issue and highlights the social dilemma of multiple families now headed by females—many of whom constitute the membership of the goats-as-currency village banks. All bank members receive gender empowerment training and HIV awareness and stigmatization training in monthly bank meetings.

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