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.
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.
Dimbangombe Learning Site Before 2006 and After 2009
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).
National Park and Dimbangombe Learning Site on the Same Day
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.
Following harvest, in communities neighboring Dimbangombe, livestock are kept in enclosures at night that move across cropfields 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.
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 program.
All of the seminars, workshops and training programs held on Dimbangombe provide participants a close-up experience of the following:
On-the-ground learning about the basic processes at work in any environment and how management can influence them for the better. Out on the land it becomes obvious what the soil needs in order to stay healthy, what the plants need to grow well, and how animals can be managed to meet these needs while flourishing themselves. An important part of any training is learning to “read the land” – you just can’t do it from a book.
The Dimbangombe grazing plan is posted on a wall for all to see. The aim of the grazing plan is not only to improve land health, but to ensure livestock and wildlife have adequate forage year round. In the growing season livestock grazing is timed to ensure maximum plant growth and re-growth. In the dry season the plan rations out the forage that was grown to ensure it lasts until the next rains. Droughts are anticipated each year and successfully planned for. In all seasons, livestock moves are planned months ahead to avoid conflict with the needs of wildlife – for food, water, or shelter. The Dimbangombe herders can explain where they will take the herd each day, what areas they will avoid or give special treatment along the way, when they will move the herd to a new area and what they will do when they get there.
Large herds necessitate increased water availability, which is gained through storage (an inexpensive, highly durable, ultra-thin-walled cement reservoir) and rapid delivery to a trough. On Dimbangombe water is pumped using mainline electricity or diesel as a power source.
Predators, particularly lions, are plentiful in our corner of Zimbabwe, but the movable lion-proof kraals (enclosures), developed here on Dimbangombe, keep livestock safe at night and enable us to remain a “predator- friendly” operation. Panels are made of boma sheeting – a PVC material used in the game capture industry – to form a fence lions will not challenge.
Africa Centre for Holistic Management, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Tel: + 263 77 840 1329