Sunday, January 3, 2010
I have just been talking with an old buddy of mine about food security and food production in Africa. We were discussing why many of the international institutions and foundations that are concerned with food production show so little interest in the Vetiver System. Basically it is because vetiver is not a food. Its a grass!! You talk about Vetiver - eyes glaze over and VS is put in a box and forgotten about. It seems to me that most of the policy makers and funders have little power of observation and do not realize that unless current levels of soil loss are drastically reduced, and rainfall runoff is slowed down and redirected to improving soil moisture and groundwater that eventually crop yields will reduce dramatically whatever the improvement in seeds and other technologies occur. Farmers take many years to take on new technologies that do not show instant returns. Food crops grown with vetiver often show some increased yields in the first year, by the second and third years its for real - our farmer from Talube, Ethiopia (see website) increased his maize yields by four times when he used vetiver, as it allowed him to reduce risk and increase fertilizer applications and other inputs. His maize crop (without his knowledge) benefited from reduced damage by maize stem borer due to the stem borer preference for vetiver. I bet those policy makers never knew this fact!
Often the first people to test vetiver for conservation are the country's research stations, many of the scientists may be great agronomists, but as agriculturists they are a disaster - they have no idea how to establish a vetiver hedgerow (even with good documentary support). Often they change the planting method because they think they know better - they don't - the result is a failure and vetiver is again put back in the box to be forgotten.
Field results from all over the world show significant increases in crop yield and reliability when grown in conjunction with correctly planted vetiver hedgerows. Just go and talk with vetiver using farmers in Ethiopia, Cameroon, Madagascar, Zambia and Malawi and they will tell their story of hope that has emerged after using the Vetiver technology.
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