A half century of Holistic Management: what does the evidence reveal?


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Holistic Management (HM) is a decision-making framework based on triple bottom line thinking and a proactive approach to managing complexity. Primarily associated with an approach to managing livestock, it has spurred long running and still unresolved debates in rangeland ecology and management. Less studied are the social, cultural, and psychological aspects of HM, which may hold the key to successful ecological outcomes. This paper describes the main tenets of HM as conceived by wildlife biologist Allan Savory and addresses the longstanding and unresolved controversy over its legitimacy. The authors then provide a meta-analysis that not only gives an up-to-date review of the multidisciplinary evidence and ongoing arguments about HM, but also provides a novel explanation for the controversy—that it is grounded in epistemic differences between disciplines associated with agricultural science that rule out any chance of resolution. He authors conclude that the way to resolve the controversy over Holistic Management is to research, in partnership with ranchers, rangeland social-ecological systems in more holistic, integrated ways. This can account for the full range of human experience, co-produce new knowledge, and contribute to social-ecological transformation.

Gosnell, Hannah, Kerry Grimm, and Bruce E. Goldstein. 2020. “A half century of Holistic Management: what does the evidence reveal?”  Agriculture and Human Values, published online, 23 January 2020,  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-020-10016-w

Savory Institute

Savory Institute

The Savory Institute is on a mission to regenerate the grasslands of the world and the livelihoods of their inhabitants, through Holistic Management. Since 2009, Savory Institute has been leading the regenerative agriculture movement by equipping farmers, ranchers, and pastoralist communities to regenerate land within culturally-relevant and ecologically-appropriate contexts.
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