The Holistic Management Model: Enabling Scientists to Grasp Complexity as Well as Villagers Do by Sam Bingham This paper was presented at the SANREM/CRSP Scientific Research Meeting - November 28-30 at the University of Georgia in Athens. (SANREM/CRSP stands for Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management / Cooperative Research Support Program). Abstract The Holistic Management® Model evolved from work by Allan Savory in Southern Africa in the 1950’s in response to the rapid degradation of semi-arid grazing land where human management had changed the grazing patterns of wild herds. Today, most schools within the range science academy share elements of Holistic Management. Reinforcing evidence has also come independently from anthropologists and economist based in England. Since the early 1980’s a series of papers have documented the environmental and economic superiority of traditional nomadic practices. Reflection on the thought processes that led to this breakthrough in understanding a particular ecosystem inspired a fresh approach to the general problem of modeling and managing complex self-organizing systems in which the total number of variables is neither constant nor even knowable - the Holistic Management® Model. Its application in SANREM-Africa has put on trial both the Holistic Management® Model and many conventions of American-style development research. Context and Questions The program for this, the SANREM Research Conference, classifies this paper under "ValuesBased Community Planning". To facilitate this, SANREM first contracted for Holistic Management training of villagers and village-level community workers during the Phase I of the Africa Program in Burkina Faso. That began in late 1994 and included five ten-day sessions spread over 30 months. Both groups responded well. The community workers actually incorporated themselves as an NGO with the goal of continuing the training independently. Its members have since been dispersed through reassignment by their various services. Nevertheless, they remain in touch with each other and their trainer, and continue to promote the Holistic Management® Model in creative ways – in adult literacy programs, for example. As recently as last August (2001), an extension agent for the Provincial Agricultural Services responsible for the former SANREM target village of Donsin sent me a photograph of over 75 people, he said, packed into a community center for his presentation on Holistic Management. Joanny Ouedraogo has asked for, and received, French Language training packets for Holistic Management prepared for West Africa by the World Bank. We can thus include Holistic Management among SANREM impacts durable enough to survive beyond subsidies. This
response is not isolated. The World Bank’s West Africa Pastoral Perimeter Project which began training village technicians in 1992 has enjoyed a similarly positive grassroots reception to Holistic Management as documented in the evaluation of the pilot phase completed in late 1999. In Zimbabwe, too, spontaneous and vigorous response from the adjacent communal lands recently discouraged an armed band of squatters from occupying the Center for Holistic Management’s demonstration site and training center and beat back several government attempts to confiscate it as well. On the other hand, even in Zimbabwe, grazing practices (the original focus of Holistic Management) have changed little, and the degradation of communal lands continues. Independent evaluators of the World Bank projects also remarked that they could not explain the enthusiasm of villagers and transhumants on the basis of any hard evidence of progress as they defined it. As in the World Bank project, SANREM-Africa has looked to Holistic Management training and the Holistic Management Model itself as way to approach grazing and livestock issues, which have long been the stepchild of development programs everywhere. Coincidentally, it is hoped that the...
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