May 11, 2015 Admin

Desertification, what “Effective Rainfall” can change

Over vast areas of the world, and particularly in Africa most risk and disasters are associated with drought and flood both increasing in severity and frequency.  Not as a result of climate change as so often touted but being symptoms of non-effective rainfall or desertification.  These regions not being subject to tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, etc. Allan Savory brings this to crystal clarity in this graphic example, which shows that very differently from theoretical models of effective rainfall (r.g. FAO) it is the local practices on the land that most influence rain’s effectiveness.

Before jumping to Allan’s text we visited Kristin Ohlson’s book (The Soil will Save Us) where she wonderfully recounts her encounter with Allan’s ideas and cites interesting parts revealing the issue of bare soils and land degradation taking place in front of our eyes. In one instance, a farmer that had won the Rhodesian award for best grasslands consulted Allan to validate this merit. Allan asked to be taken to the best spot on the farm, and this looked glorious full of grasses, but dropping to his knees and examining the soil and distance between plants, he concluded that the place was 90% degraded.

Allan writes:

“Non-effective rainfall experienced over about two thirds of the world’s land area is rainfall that is largely lost because of flow across the soil surface, or if it does infiltrate the soil much is subsequently lost to evaporation from the soil.  Effective rainfall is that which infiltrates and only leaves the soil either by flowing through the soil to underground reservoirs or to constant river flow, wetlands, etc. Or it leaves the soil by transpiration through plants.

Humans have only the “tools” of technology in its many forms, fire or resting the land with which to make available rainfall more effective (reverse desertification) and with only these it is simply impossible to achieve – hence the past centuries of advancing desertification (even in the U.S. with all its resources).  By using much vilified livestock however properly managed it becomes possible as has now been demonstrated for over fifty years repeatedly.

Entirely because of Holistic Planned Grazing and greatly increased livestock (400% increase) these pictures show the story of land regeneration as rainfall becomes more effective.  The Dimbangombe river on the ranch of the Africa Centre for Holistic Management – with all pictures taken between the 5th April and 14th April, 2015.




By the 5th April the river had gone dry after a poor rain season, and then 100 mm of rain fell in the immediate catchment above this site.  Where in the past this would have resulted in about a two meter flash flood we had about 20cm flow of discoloured water indicating surface flow loss of water as seen above.


By the 14th April the river was once more dry as seen above and although no further rain had fallen clear water began slowly flowing as seen below.



Clear water coming slowly down river as sun was setting.

By dawn on 15th April the river was once more full and flowing with crystal clear drinkable water now flowing out of the soil.


This has now received major endorsement in a recently released National Geographic/PBS documentary Earth a New Wild. Episode 2 on the grasslands of the world heavily influenced by their producers having visited the Africa Centre for Holistic Management.  The host had this to say in the film going to millions of viewers:

“If Allan is right, then we may have to completely rethink life on the plains. The message is an extraordinarily powerful one, and it could be the best thing, the absolute best thing that conservation has ever discovered.”



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