Through our unique planning methodology, livestock are used as a tool for land restoration by combining cattle, sheep and goats into large herds to harness the power of their hooves to break up hard ground so air and water can penetrate, and to trample down old grass so the soil is covered and less prone to the drying effects of sun and wind. Their dung and urine help fertilise the hoof-prepared soil, and their grazing (which is timed to prevent overgrazing) keeps perennial grasses healthy, greatly minimizing the need to burn them and expose soil.
Wildlife habitat has improved on Dimbangombe, especially compared to the nearby Zambezi National Park which continues to deteriorate under wildlife only. On the left is the riparian area in the national park and on the right the riparian area on Dimbangombe, same day, 2015.
We are committed to improving our own practice of Holistic Management on Dimbangombe, while continuing to further its development. Visitors, students and researchers learn from our mistakes as well as our successes in using livestock to restore land so that bare ground is covered and springs and rivers flow again.
We collaborated with our neighbors in the 40,000-hectare Hwange Communal Lands over a five-year period to develop effective methods and materials for introducing Holistic Management to agro-pastoral communities. Today those methods and materials are used throughout Africa. And a growing number of communities within the Hwange Communal Lands serve as extended learning sites where visitors and trainees benefit from first-hand exposure to the challenges and rewards real communities face in using livestock to restore their land. At our community learning sites, forage production has increased four-fold or more, rivers are flowing again, or pools remain, through the dry season, and livestock are healthier and more productive. There is just as much to see and learn.
The portion of this cropfield that was impacted by the livestock is obvious to everyone. And the difference in maize yields between the two is the difference between food sufficiency and a feeding programme.
Our 3,200-hectare learning site, known as Dimbangombe, lies 32 km south of Victoria Falls and at the heart of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area – the largest such conservation area in the world. Dimbangombe is home to a sizeable wildlife population (elephant, lion, buffalo, sable, giraffe, kudu, leopard, and more), a land management herd of cattle, sheep and goats, an impressive team of herders, and an ever-improving landscape. On Dimbangombe, perennial river flow is improving and forage is abundant and feeding 400% more livestock than when we began. There is much to see and learn
Following harvest, community livestock are kraaled on successive cropfields at night to break up the soil with their hooves and deposit dung and urine. The treatment has more than doubled (five times, in some cases) the yields on community control fields, made abandoned fields usable again, and eliminated the labour required for transporting manure.
Watershed Restoration on Dimbangombe: Livestock were concentrated on this spot, which had been bare for close to 30 years. Two years later it had covered over in forage. (Arrows mark the same tree in each photo).