Meet Sarah Savory, single mum of 2 children – Luke (8) and Mika (5) passionate conservationist, holistic management consultant and children’s author
Where do you work/live? Zimbabwe
Tell us a bit about yourself? Your life story, how did you end up where
you are now?
I was born and brought up in Zimbabwe. My father, Allan Savory is a 4th generation Zimbabwean and world-renowned ecologist who founded the Holistic Management Framework. This framework ensures that, when making management decisions, we look at all social, political, economic and political aspects simultaneously. It makes sure we are putting the health of our life-supporting environment first.
My grandmother on my mother’s side was the first Rhodesian woman to attend Oxford University and was tutored by the famous author, CS Lewis. I think it’s this useful mix of genes that got me writing educational children’s books on important conservation issues and solutions!
Growing up in Zimbabwe, I was always obsessed with all creatures great and small. When I was about 2, I used to go around the garden with a bucket trying to rescue all the snails because when my mum found them she would stand on them! That passion and determination to save animals have never stopped. For many, many years though, I campaigned for animals through things like anti-poaching and raising awareness and had big arguments with my father because he used to tell me that if I wanted to truly save wildlife, I had to look at the bigger picture. I used to tell him that he could take care of the bigger picture and I would take care of the “little guys.” Then, slowly but surely it began dawning on me that he was right and that we’d never save wildlife if we didn’t look at the bigger picture. The biggest threat to all wildlife and now humanity as a whole is desertification and poaching is just one of the many symptoms of desertification. If we are to truly save wildlife, we have to stop only treating symptoms and start addressing the cause.
Several years ago, we had some visitors from Australia and none of them had ever heard of a pangolin, so that day, I decided to make it my mission to raise awareness about one of my favourite mammals on the planet! Pangolins are the world’s least-known but most-trafficked animals in the world. I gave it some thought and decided that the best way to get through to the most people would be a children’s book – that way, parents and adults who read to the kids would learn too. So, I wrote a story, had it illustrated, added pangolin fact and photo pages at the back and it just took off. Last year, it got published by Penguin Random House!
That opened the door to some of what I am doing now – since then, I have written another 2 children’s books, and these are based on the principles of holistic management – they are fun, rhyming, rhythmical, beautifully illustrated stories with fact and photo pages at the end to educate children on the importance of habitat regeneration, soil health, biodiversity and the need for us to change management by addressing nature’s complexity if we are to have a future on this planet. It is hard to explain the framework in brief on this platform, but I will add a link for those interested in learning more and I will add a sentence here to give you an idea of how this framework changes our thinking – in Holistic Management, we form a “holistic context” which is what we want for our future, i.e.: healthy land, clean water, clean air, healthy food, good education, shelter, etc…this context leads people to pursue different strategies from the conventional ones. Here’s a simple example: in conventional management, “getting rid of the weeds” would be the goal. In Holistic Management, the goal would be ”producing prosperous people on healthy land that is so rich in its diversity of plant and animal life that the weeds cease to be a problem” because that is what is reflected in the holistic context.
I am hoping to get my books into junior schools around the world as part of the curriculum and my father’s textbook on Holistic Management in senior schools. If we could have school leavers automatically using this management framework and putting the health of their life-supporting environment first, no matter what career they choose, in a few short years, we would be looking at a very different future for all life on our earth. I will do everything in my power to ensure that our children and our wildlife have a future.
“People often ask me why I work so hard on all this when I don’t earn any money from it. The answer is simple: because I care.”
What is your favourite part of living where you are?
The whole country, its people and its wildlife are just incredible. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to grow up in and I will make sure my children have the same privilege.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
Zimbabwe is an amazing place to live…our political problems and daily struggles make us all stronger and more connected as a community and we really do produce some phenomenal people out of it all. There is so much positive work being done by passionate people behind the scenes and that is what I try to focus on through these tough times.
There isn’t really a typical day for me. Some days I could be sitting in government offices having meetings with different ministries, working on policy change, or I could be at a school, reading my books and doing educational talks to children, I could be working on the layout of my next book, or I could be out in the bush having meetings sitting around a campfire listening to lions and hyenas in the background!
A lot of the work I am involved in, especially on the conservation side, can involve a lot of money in grants and donations, and with that, of course, comes conflict and competition over funding. This leads, in many cases, to people refusing to work together and a tendency to push personal projects and agendas, reducing their management focus and losing sight of what is happening with the bigger picture.
The reason I love the holistic management framework is that once people understand it, it cannot possibly offend anyone and it can be applied to anything by anyone. From an individual living in a big city to a village chief in a communal area.