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

The Coral Triangle and Pacific Islands

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My old friend Don Miller who lives and works in Vanuatu as an agricultural advisor has aptly demonstrated that the Vetiver System will significantly reduce sediment flows to coastal waters and coral reefs.  He is also very aware of how some land use practices carried out by local island communities can have devastating impact on their own lives and the fisheries that support many of them.

He drew my attention to two recent reports: Pacific Ocean Synthesis and The Coral Triangle and Climate Change  Both reports highlight the dangers to the ocean ecosystems due to human interventions.  Amongst the listed problems are: aquaculture wastewater, land based chemicals, nutrients, solid waste disposal, and land based sedimentation. The solutions mainly relate to policy change and one assumes regulation.  The reports are short on practical solutions that can be implemented relatively quickly and at low cost.

All five of the above listed problems can be mitigated by using the Vetiver System.  Of the five the most important is the mitigation of land based sedimentation.  Land based sedimentation is a result of deforestation, inappropriate farming practices, flooding, land slippage, and unprotected infrastructure (roads).  Additionally sediment particles are the prime carriers of pollutants.  Reduced sediment flows  translate into increased community benefits ranging from better farm incomes, improved groundwater, and less polluted water supplies.

The Vetiver System impact on reduced sediment flows to coastal waters has been demonstrated by Don Miller at Port Patrick, Vanuatu.  Far away in the western highlands of Ethiopia 17,000 farmers have shown how vetiver hedgerows will halt sediment movement from farm land at the same time creating much improved incomes and other benefits - including improved groundwater and potable drinking water. The same can be applied to the Pacific islands. In East Bali a poverty related program that extensively uses the Vetiver System has revived the lives of 11,000 people and at the same time reduced sediment flows to downstream areas, including the sea.

In Vietnam Mekong Delta a fish farm company has used vetiver to improve the quality of both intake and outlet water (page 7).  

Extensive research has been undertaken to show that vetiver is especially good at removing nitrates, phosphates, and heavy metals from mine sites and waste water treatment plants. This is summarized with some case studies in a TVNI publication: The Vetiver System for Improving Water Quality - The Prevention and Treatment of Contaminated Water and Land.  An hotel in Bali has constructed a vetiver wetland to successfully treat hotel waste water that is high in nutrients.

Vetiver System has been used successfully in China at large scale for stabilizing solid waste disposal landfills and for village rubbish dumps in Morocco.

One of the reasons that Vetiver has not been promoted has been the fear that it might become an invasive weed.  I have written about this on this blog.  Just recently Robert Joy of USDA/NRCS (Hawaii) published a plant guide on Vetiver that should put to bed the invasive issue.

There are 18,500 islands in the Coral Triangle.  Vetiver will grow well on all of them.  In fact many of them already have Vetiver and know about its use.  Policy makers, aid agencies and others should press for greater use of the technology, because we have here a system that works, is relatively easy to apply, and is very much cheaper than alternative solutions.  The impact of VS will not only improve coastal water and reefs, but also improves the lives of the islanders in many ways.  The Oceans and in particular the Coral Triangle are in crisis, VS has the potential to reduce the crisis - use it!!

Dick Grimshaw






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