The Savory Institute
When you think of climate solutions, what comes to mind first? Do you think of futuristic, innovative technology? While those types of solutions are needed, they aren’t the be-all and end-all. The climate crisis necessitates nature-based solutions in addition to those new technologies to solve the problem of excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Grasslands, which include prairies, savannas, pampas, and more, comprise between 20 and 40% of the Earth’s land surface, and they are critical for biodiversity, water management, grazing animals, and climate mitigation.
In fact, grasslands are efficient, natural carbon sinks, with research suggesting they store as much as 30% of the carbon in Earth’s soil. So, protecting them is an important step in mitigating climate change. Grasslands are also one of the most important habitats for the world’s agricultural needs, with fertile soil perfect for crops and pastures. Yet, grasslands tend to be overlooked in mainstream environmental discussions.
For millennia, large herds of herbivores have grazed grasslands all over the world; the two co-evolved, with grazers stimulating plant growth and grasslands offering food to these animals. Today, our grasslands are dying, with over 40% of global grasslands experiencing degradation. So, where did things go wrong?
Bobby Gill, Director of Development and Communications for The Savory Institute, says that the industrialization of agriculture and improper grazing are to blame. Together, these are destroying soil health of grasslands and driving up carbon emissions.
Savory’s solution for saving the grasslands is based in nature’s image, mimicking the ancestral migratory patterns that massive herds of wild herbivores had before humans intervened.
Savory works with farmers and ranchers around the globe to regenerate the world’s grasslands and the livelihoods of their inhabitants through Holistic Management taught through books, online courses, and their regional learning hubs. Savory is truly embracing the “teach a man to fish” approach, not just educating people on the best grazing practices but also teaching them how to make decisions in a more holistic context. For them, this means moving from attempts to control the landscape to cooperation with nature.
What does Holistic Management look like? For Savory, this means working with farmers, ranchers, and communities to establish the interconnectedness of grassland, grazer, grassland health, soil health, climate change, community dynamics, and their financial return. Holistic Management teaches people to assess resources and make decisions that benefit the individual, the community, and the Earth.
When asked how winning the Keeling Curve Prize helped Savory’s work, Gill pointed to their Land to Market Program, which creates a marketplace for products sourced from regenerative agriculture. “Back in 2018, we were just getting started with this program. The Keeling Curve Prize really allowed us to accelerate it and continue to build it out. Today, it’s insane to see the momentum behind regenerative agriculture and the Land to Market program. We’re working to really revolutionize those supply chains, and with the Keeling Curve Prize, we’ve been able to grow that program in a massive way.”
Explaining the purpose of the program, Gill says, “It’s possible to go to the store and buy something that’s organic or fair-trade or non-GMO, but none of those certifications or labels on a product speak to the health of the land or speak to what’s being done for soil health and carbon sequestration. So, you can feed your cows grass, and that’s great, and we think necessary, but that doesn’t speak to how the cows are moving across the land and what impact they’re having. You can still be over-grazing your land with grass-fed animals. So, how do you know if you’re regenerating the land?”
Thus, the creation of their Ecological Outcome Verification model (EOV), \a scientific land-monitoring protocol that gathers data to determine if the land is regenerating. If the data shows the land is regenerating, the farmer or rancher has the opportunity to enter their Land to Market Program, and Savory connects them to brands interested in making their products more sustainable by sourcing from regenerative supply.
The Land to Market Program is a unique, outcomes-based verification protocol as opposed to a checklist of practices (like other certifications you may find on products). Additionally, it stands out as a global network of producers and supply that brands can tap into.
These farmers, ranchers, and brands aren’t the only ones benefiting from the program, either. With thousands of Land to Market products out in the marketplace, consumers are able to align their values with their purchasing power. Savory is empowering suppliers, brands, and consumers to make climate-friendly choices that have long-term benefits for our grasslands and world.
“Back in 2018, we were just getting started with this program. The Keeling Curve Prize really allowed us to accelerate it and continue to build it out. Today, it’s insane to see the momentum behind regenerative agriculture and the Land to Market program. We’re working to really revolutionize those supply chains, and with the Keeling Curve Prize, we’ve been able to grow that program in a massive way.”
— Bobby Gill, Director of Development and Communications for The Savory Institute
Gill explains that one benefit of this Holistic Management approach is its flexibility, “With this framework, this set of grazing procedures and whatnot, it’s fairly practice-agnostic. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to regenerate the land.” Savory is not preaching one way of farming to their network. Rather, they focus on empowering individuals with the tools and education to accomplish their unique goals related to sustainable land management.
Today, Savory’s reach is global. They have 54 regional learning hubs that exist all over the world, on all six habitable continents. They’re working with the Masaai in Kenya, Gauchos in Patagonia, reindeer herders in Norway, and cowboys in the United States. Since their creation, Savory has trained over 14,000 people and started regeneration on over 42 million acres of grasslands
The Future of The Savory Institute
The impact of Savory’s Holistic Management work and Land to Market program are not theoretical but tangible, with millions of acres of grasslands already regenerating, and 2.5 million acres under EOV. But, Savory is aiming higher. Gill said the organization’s ultimate goal is to regenerate 20% of global grasslands (one billion hectares)!
We, at the Global Warming Mitigation Project, have no doubts that Savory will eventually realize this goal, and we cannot wait to see what other nature-based climate solutions will emerge in the coming years, inspired by Savory’s dedication to holistic solutions.