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Why I said: Haiti - Vetiver the only solution

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Why I said: Haiti - Vetiver the only solution


Hello my name is Mike Mahowald, Thanks for all the interest in Haiti and welcoming me to your group! I have been going on missions to Gris Gris Haiti for the past 10 years.


This is in Sud Est Haiti north of Cote De Fer at elevation over 2000 ft with a beautiful view of the ocean. I brought medical team, which worked very hard who not only helped cure many but also saved some. From this experience we found that more important than medical teams would be for them to have clean water and more nutrition. After drilling some of the deepest wells in Haiti, which gave them clean water in 2002, I started an agriculture program. We shipped 7 goats 4 pregnant females and 3 bucks, all with assorted genes from the top 10 milk producing LaMancha goats in the US. Although our project is still going it has been far from the success we had hoped. Mostly because they don't have enough of the proper fodder to produce large quantities of milk since the peasant's needs come first and fight for food resources. Our Ag group worked hard at finding the best solutions for farming in Haiti. They thought we should work on composting and alley farming.


We found the best replacement for alfalfa was Leucaena in Gris Gris that already grows wild there. Being ruminant animal dairy goats also need a lot of grass. With the constant torrential rains they receive from passing hurricanes there soils are washed away. We also looked for grasses that could hold back erosion, this is where l discovered Dick Grimshaw's websites on Vetiver.


Another problem they have is drought in the dry seasons. Their hummus holds so little moisture now that many varieties of trees are gone and will not even grow where they once were so prolific.


Now the biggest problem is the ground water level is getting lower and lower and the wells may dry up. Problem is the water runs off so fast that it doesn't soak into the ground.


This is why I have said that all the other projects are worthless until we develop the Vetiver System. The hummus that collects in front of the Vetiver will be the best they can ever have and Vetiver is the only thing that will hold it on the hillsides. The moisture that is held in the hummus will allow the fruit plants to grow again. Roots from both Vetiver and Leucaena will bring tons of fresh water back down the limestone caverns to replenish ground waters.


Our group's main emphasis is now on what we call our 3-step program: We cannot tell the people they cannot farm the steepest hillsides even if everyone knows they will not produce food for many years. The only system that will work that will protect the hillsides and still allow the peasants to grow food is;



  1. Stop the erosion: using Vetiver to make terraces on the steep slopes that are already cultivating.
  2. Replenish the soil: plant Leucaena (a nitrogen fixing legume that produces more protein than alfalfa per acre) on the steeper slopes horizontally 6 vertical feet below Vetiver, chopping off top to keep low for goats and produce the most fodder which will also will naturally collect and compost on next row of Vetiver.
  3. Make the land produce more food: Using drip irrigation with The Family sized Chapin Bucket Irrigation Kits.

We had figured this process in 2005 and I was so reassured we were on the right track and could hardly believe when I later found the article previously written by Micheal Benge: Disaster Mitigation, Flood and Erosion Control in Haiti.


Just Yesterday I saw his blog and I am so ecstatic to see him in this group!


Although seeds where I go are prolific there is interesting info on Leucaena at this site. 


Bucket kit information

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