The “Brown Revolution”- securing food naturally.

Submitted by Water Team on 16 January, 2012 - 15:51

Everyone at least once heard in his life the words “Green Revolution” not as many could say to have heard about the “Brown Revolution”. The first revolution characterized the way of guaranteeing food production through new technologies such as improved crop varieties (HYVs) developed and widely used in developing countries in the middle of the 20th century. This Green Revolution received many criticisms such as those made by Nobel Prize Amartya Sen arguing that world’s food problems were not relying on the lack of food production but on an uneven food distribution or those made by environmentalist arguing that these new crops relied on a heavy use of pesticides and that they were affecting agricultural biodiversity.

New experiments carried out by the U.S.-based Savory Institute and its partner organisation, the Africa Centre for Holistic Management (ACHM) reported by Busani Bafana for IPS (2012) have shown that a Brown Revolution is starting . This new revolution relies on restoring natural systems instead of implementing new technology as the Green Revolution used to foster.

The Brown revolution reckons the principle of a holistic management which has been developed after many years of research carried out essentially by biologist Allan Savory in Zimbabwe beginning in the 1960s. He opposed conventional wisdom that desertification was the natural consequence of overstocking of cattle by instead proving that livestock, if managed properly, can change the direction of desertification, biodiversity loss and climate change globally. He basically argues that livestock should replace the large herds of wild herbivores that used to roam the planet through an holistic planned grazing which means that livestock are grazed in an area for a maximum of three days and not returned to the same piece of land for at least nine months.

Livestock can be used to mimic the role these herds once played in maintaining ecosystem health, which is what the holistic grazing planning process was designed to do.”(ACHM, 2012).

Stationary livestock is what in part causes desertification, but if it is managed in such a way that it is conducted like herds and that it does not overuse one area, the results can be sensational, with benefits including increased organic matter in the soil, rejuvenation of microorganisms, and restoration of water cycles (Hamilton, 2011).

This practice has been conducted in a pilot project in Zimbabwe near Lake Victoria, where livestock was increased by 400 percent land, wildlife and water have regenerated on a desertificated land (Bafana, 2012). Other success stories exist such as in South Dakota and in Australia (Hamilton, 2012).


IPS reports that this new thinking on land restoration is now being discussed also by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and that maybe it will be presented at Rio+20. If assessed and recognised scientifically globally and by international organisations this new “natural oriented solution” opposed to a “technological and market based” one could maybe shape the start of a new area for future food production and climate change solutions.


For further information please visit:



Africa Center For Holistic Management (ACHM), 2012, About holisitc management, (online) Available at:

Busani Bafana, 2012, Brown Revolution Brings New Hope. Available at:

Hamilton L.M., 2012, The Brown Revolution: Increasing Agricultural Productivity Naturally. Available at: