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Thai treasures!

Thai treasures!
Vetiver handicrafts

Paul Truong

Paul Truong
Ho Chi Minh Highway

Ho Chi Minh Highway

Ho Chi Minh Highway
Vetiver has done its job! 14 years later stable slopes, clean road drains, and now mainly native species

Watts Bridge Airfield, Queensland, Vetiver Waste Water treatment update

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Watts Bridge constructed Vetiver wetland
Coordinates: -27.099224º  152.459996º
This constructed wetland has been operating since 2005 and is still working well. So well that effluent throughput could be doubled. Here is some comparative data from one of the test wells (#4) for years 2008 and (2017): pH:7 (6.5); P mg/l: 1.2 (0.25); Ammonium N: 0.13 (0.1); Nitrite N: 003 (0.022); Nitrate N: 0.097 (0.063), Nitrite + Nitrate N: 0.01 (0.041); Fecal coliform du/100ml: <10 (10). This system was installed by Paul Truong (Veticon). Note that out of the four test wells only well #4 had water in it. All the others were dry in 2017.  

This link takes you to an earlier presentation by Paul Truong including images and details: 

This  type of vetiver application is highly replicable, low cost and efficient
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"The Father of Vetiver", John Greenfield died at his home in New Zealand on February 25 2017. John often reminded us that as agriculturists we had only 30 to 40 seasons to attempt to make significant change during our professional careers. He certainly succeeded in doing so, and today tens of thousands of people in the tropical world have benefited from his insights and actions on soil and moisture conservation and the application of the Vetiver System. He was a very practical hands on agronomist and conservationist whose work was always well based on science. He understood what he saw, and was able to create practical common sense solutions from those observations. We know him affectionately as "The Father of Vetiver" - and he is well known to many people through the simple hand book "Vetiver Grass - A Hedge Against Erosion" - a handbook that had to fit in the shirt pocket of a farmer! and one that has been translated into countless languages. 
I personally knew John since 1985 when he came to work with me in India. He became a good friend and colleague. We had many great times together in India, and after, from a distance promoting the Vetiver System around the globe. His was not a wasted life, but one of action, one that will continue to impact for a very, very, long time into the future on many thousands users of the Vetiver System in many different ways. John was always looking to help the world's small rainfed farmers. The best tribute to him would be for those people working with and advising this group of farmers, to make greater efforts to introduce the Vetiver System and the very unique plant that it is based on. Those who work with small farmers might like to read this: ALLEVIATING POVERTY IN THE THIRD WORLD -- THIS IS ALL IT TAKES!
Emerging from John's "Vetiver Grass Technology" based soil and water conservation focused work has been, in recent years, a series of bioengineering and phytoremediation applications that could have a profound impact on our environment at this time of climate change. 
Our thoughts are with Sandra (his long time partner) and his children.

Dick Grimshaw. February 25 2017

The Vetiver System supports Community Resilience at a time of uncertainty - Part 2 - Water

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Figure 1: water oozing from spring line (PC- Anno Farms)
This is the second article about using the Vetiver System to help build community resilience in these uncertain times when many communities can expect little support from government or others to deal with increasing problems created by climate change, continuing poverty, and very limited financial resources. 

As noted in Part 1 most rural people in the tropics and semi arid areas are poor, and, even when out of poverty, most are unable to manage the environmental crises that currently, and in the future, will confront them. Most communities worry about being able to make a decent living from their small farms or businesses, they worry about the quality and availability of their water supply, they worry about potential disasters that may isolate them from neighboring communities and services, they worry about educating their children, and they see continuing and unabated health challenges often linked to environmental and social mismanagement.  These concerns are magnified because most communities lack access to low cost technologies that might help them overcome some of their problems. The Vetiver System (VS) is one of a number of technologies that can help them. VS is low cost, relatively simple to understand, safe, and over the past 30 years is well proven.

The Vetiver Grass Technology, (VGT) used for decades by farmers in south India as a tool for soil conservation, was reintroduced and "institutionalized" by John Greenfield of New Zealand whilst he was working for the World Bank in India in the 1980s.  At that time the objective was to establish VGT as a more appropriate erosion control technology than the traditional engineered contour bunds. Later VGT formed the basis of a number of other applications that collectively are known as the Vetiver System (VS), these will be reviewed in future posts to this blog.

This article discusses the application of VGT for sustained and improved water supplies that meet community needs. The availability of water and its quality has become of prime importance to sustaining human and animal life on our planet. This is of primary importance to many poor communities, both in urban and rural areas. A more reliable supply will reduce risks and costs, and for farmers assure crop and livestock benefits. VGT hedgerows as noted in part 1 will increase soil moisture and will enhance groundwater. Hedgerows reduce rainfall runoff by as much as 70%, and provide, by some estimates, 20% recharge of ground water.  Reduced runoff and recharge results in better down catchment flows, stronger spring flows, sustainable well water supplies, and fuller surface reservoirs. 

The Vetiver System supports Community Resilience at a time of uncertainty - Part I - The Farm

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Figure 1:Hassan Ali and family from Ethiopia - a leading user of the
Vetiver System and who  is as a result much more resilient to uncertainty
I propose to write about how the Vetiver System can help build up community resilience in these uncertain times when many communities can expect little support from government or others to deal with increasing problems created by climate change, continuing poverty, and very limited financial resources. The review will be carried out over a number of post. Most rural people in the tropics and semi arid areas are poor, and even when out of poverty most are unable to manage the environmental crises that currently, and in the future, will confront them. Most communities worry about being able to make a decent living from their small farms or businesses, they want to educate their children at higher levels, they worry about the quality and availability of their water supply, they worry about potential disasters that may isolate them from neighboring communities and services, and they see continuing and unabated health challenges often caused by environmental mismanagement. These concerns are magnified because most communities lack access to low cost technologies that might help them overcome some of their problems.

The Vetiver System (VS) is one of a number of technologies that can help them. VS is low cost, relatively simple to understand, safe, and has over the past 30 years been well proven. The Vetiver Grass Technology, (VGT) used for decades by farmers in south India as a tool for soil conservation, was reintroduced and "institutionalized" by John Greenfield of New Zealand whilst he was working for the World Bank in India in the 1980s. At that time the objective was to establish VGT as a more appropriate erosion control technology than the traditional engineered contour bunds. Later VGT formed the basis of a number of other applications that collectively are known as the Vetiver System (VS), these will be reviewed in future blogs. The grass when planted as a hedgerow across the slope significantly reduces soil loss and rainfall runoff. As a result soil fertility is enhanced (increased organic matter, reduced nutrient loss, and nutrient enhancement through increased soil micro-organism activity), crop water availability is improved (enhanced permeability and rate of infiltration), ground water is better recharged is less polluted, and; and farmers can use other crop improvement technologies with less fear of "man" induced drought, flood damage, etc. that can lead to economic disaster. Additionally there are many bi-products that further enhance farm income including vetiver grass use as forage, mulch, thatch, fuel, medicine, crop protection (integrated pest management), and material for handicrafts. All these uses are quantified in the many research and "feed back" papers and documents found at the TVNI website - www.vetiver.org.

 One of the most successful and widespread on farm application of vetiver has been in the Mettu-Gore region of western Ethiopia, where it was introduced in the 1990's by the Austrian NGO, Menschen fur Menschen, with some financial support from TVNI. Today tens of thousands of small farmers are using vetiver in that region. Here are some examples from Ethiopia showing how VGT has been successfully used on farms at any scale.

Figure 2: Google Earth image (1/2014) of Hassan Ali's farm near Gore 
- western Ethiopia. 8°11'11.23"N, 35°21'2.58"E

 Hassan Ali and family A small farmer in Gore District, Hassan Ali, started using vetiver about 20 years ago and soil fertility and "rainfall security" he was able year after year to increase his income to enable him to educate his children through university. He also was a key person in the area to teaching other famers about the benefits of VGT that has resulted in the spread of the technology. "Seeing is Believing"- Figure 2 is  a 2014 Google Earth image of his farm with his vetiver hedgerows marked with a "V" in red, and some photos that I took in 2009 to match some of the locations on the GE image - marked as yellow numbers.

The Vetiver System and India - It takes a generation!

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A recent quote from a senior official in West Bengal India:

"Soil erosion is one of the largest environmental issues facing the earth today; and the river banks region of India, with heavy rainfall, is particularly affected. Erosion devastates infrastructural activities- landslides, erosion by river and flood water take heavy toll of developed infrastructure. From an engineer’s perspective sustainable asset management has posed as a gargantuan task because of soil erosion. Traditional hard engineering is now found to be inconsistent with the three pillars of sustainability - economy, social and environmental. Hard engineering interventions to prevent erosion have been attempted over decades in the region, incurring large financial and environmental costs, and with limited success. This in combination with limited State budgets makes finding an alternative, low cost, environmentally sustainable solution imperative. One such method that shows considerable promise is Vetiver grass."

30 years ago (a generation ago) John Greenfield and I, when working for the World Bank in India, re-introduced the Vetiver Grass Technology (VGT) as an alternative to the engineering approach  - the latter did not work very well - too expensive, heavily subsidized, badly maintained, and mostly ineffective.  We were not very popular for promoting vetiver grass hedgerows as components of World Bank funded projects (Indian Watershed Projects in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh States) as an alternative and better technological and economic solution; questions were tabled in the Indian Parliament in New Delhi, some people even wanted to ban the technology!

Well, as you can see from the above quote, we have come a long way from those days, thanks to a new generation of professionals and the pressure created by climate change and social needs that demand alternative, effective and lower cost solutions.

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