This June the Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI), founded after the man who made the geodesic dome a household word, awarded its 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge prize of $110,000 to African-based Operation Hope for its promising work to transform degraded Zimbabwe grasslands and savannas into a sustainable environment.
The grand prize was well deserved. Here’s why: smart land management work like this can foster water and food security for millions of impoverished people that have suffered for years without such living basics.
Operation Hope was launched by the Africa Centre for Holistic Management in Zimbabwe (ACHM) and its sister organization, New Mexico-based Savory Institute . The approach of these organizations to land management runs contrary to accepted practice of resting land from animal grazing. Instead, Savory seeks to re-establish the balance between plant growth and the behavior of herding animals. Predicting this outcome: the return of unusable desert to grasslands, restoring biodiversity, bringing water sources back to life, combating global climate change, and increasing crop yields to ensure food security for people. The approach is currently being practiced and producing results on over 30 million acres worldwide, states ACHM.
ACHM enhances food and water security and human livelihoods through training that utilizes livestock to restore degraded watersheds and croplands to health offering training programs targeting community NGOs. ACHM’s Grazing Plan is designed to improve land health, and to ensure livestock (and wildlife) have adequate forage year round. In the growing season livestock moves are timed to ensure maximum plant growth and regrowth, and in the dry season the plan rations out the forage that was grown to ensure it lasts until the next rains. Droughts are planned for each year. In all seasons, livestock moves are planned months ahead to avoid conflict with the needs of wildlife – for food, water, or shelter.
Savory targets the “Green Revolution, based on high input, industrial agriculture (massive inputs of petro-chemicals and herbicides, monoculture cropping, and confinement animal feeding operations), stating it has increased global food production tremendously, but has tended to severely degrade its ecological and socio-cultural capital base in the process.
The result? “Horrific soil erosion, dead zones at the mouths of rivers, severely depleted levels of biodiversity, impoverished rural communities, soil fertility loss, and oxidation of soil organic matter have been exacerbated by the Green Revolution.”
Savory offers the Brown Revolution as a solution: “based on the regeneration of covered, organically rich, biologically thriving soil, and brought to fruition via millions of human beings returning to the land and the production of food.”
Savory contends that “slight increases in soil organic matter, over these huge extensions of the earth’s land surface area, will result in the permanent, safe, and natural sequestration of many gigatons of carbon.”
For nearly three decades, BFI has served an international network of Fuller-inspired innovators through the maintenance of a comprehensive Information Clearinghouse on R.B Fuller, including a detailed inventory of the practices and principles informing Fuller’s approach to design innovation.