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Paradise Renewed – How Vetiver System can help transform abandoned land into productive renewal.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Top left: 1995; Top Right: planting vetiver; Middle left: 2000: Vetiver hedgerows follow contour; Bottom right: 2009 Paradise!; Bottom left: Vetiver protecting irrigation channel - note how the vetiver shades aot weeds completely.
In 1995 Pete Sabbe and his wife Olda bought 15 ha of barren mismanaged agricultural land located in northern Ecuador in the western foothills of the Andes and since then have transformed it.  Part of this success is due to using the Vetiver System.  What they have achieved is applicable to most parts of the tropics and semi tropics, such as Haiti, where land has been over used, wasted and abandoned. Here is their story.

“Bosque de Paz is a micro-family business, run by the couple Piet Sabbe (Belgium) and Olda Peralta (Esmeraldas - Ecuador), located at km 42 of road between Ibarra and San Lorenzo, in northern Ecuador. In 1995, they bought, in the western foothills of the Andes, a small property on a bare hill, with exhausted land after many years of agricultural mismanagement. In fact, at the time of purchase, there were no trees as a result from of burning crop residue. This bad habit of burning indiscriminately during dry season is very common in Ecuador, and is one of the reasons for the loss of topsoil (40,000 hectares per year according to data from MAGAP).
Land Rehabilitation
The couple began the long road to restoration of life and biodiversity on their 15 acres of property on the banks of the River Guallupe. by first, establishing contour lines and planted nitrogen fixing plants along them to form barriers against erosion. Then, they introduced Vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides) as contour hedgerows to anchor the soil with its vertical roots. They used yellow bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris) planted along the streams and gullies. Gradually life returned to the land that currently is completely covered with wild vegetation, fruit trees and short-cycle crops such as maize, cassava, pineapple and some vegetables.
Protection of water sources and streams.
Due to the drastic deforestation in this subtropical region, many water sources and watersheds are dry or are dry. To maintain humidity, and time to install an example of good management of streams, mainly for the local population, they reforested with palm trees, fast growing trees, Vetiver and different types of bamboo. The few acres occupied by Bosque de Paz does not impact on the indiscriminate deforestation, devasting fires
and destruction of fertile land. But undoubtedly the planting of bamboo and
Vetiver aare part of a link to increase capacity retain water and create more bio-diversity. And as examples.
Vetiver, Cane guadúa (Guadua angustifolia) and bamboo at Bosque de Paz.
Thanks to information of the old inhabitants in the village Piet and Olda learned that in 50s and 60s there were patches of bamboo cane in the sector. These were completely destroyed by greed for installing pastures for livestock. The bamboo was ignored as a domestic and economic for the community. Since 2001 Bosque de Paz introduced on a large scale, Vetiver, cane and bamboo (and also bamboo species of Asian origin).
Vetiver and bamboo plant material are sold as part of their business
The Forest of Peace  - Bamboosarium
Currently there are 12 bamboo species in the property. A trail takes visitors on a tour of approximately hour for all species. Some plants are well developed and are up to 20 ... 25 meters high. Other species, newly planted reach a height of 2 - 3 meters. The Bamboosarium is open to the public (cost U.S. $ 3 / person). Each species has a sign with the scientific name, origin and reference to a catalog that provides more details.
The list of bamboo (to May 27, 2010):
Bambusa vulgaris
Dendrocalamus asper
Dendrocalamus latiflorus
Dendrocalamus longispiculata
Dendrocalamus oldhamii
Bambusa Tulder
Phyllostachys pubescens
Phyllostachys nigra
Phyllostachys aurea
Guadua angustifolia (wild, tame, bicolor)
Guadua aculeata
Bambusa ventricosa

The purpose of Bamboosarium it is to rediscover the role of vegetation and demonstrate to the public.
Bosque de Paz offers visitors rooms (Bed & Breakfast) in a rustic cottage, built with stones from the river and wood. It is currently building a second cottage out of cane and bamboo. They used INBAR production and construction manuals as a guideline for the harvest, preservation and details and for construction / engineering. Many errors were made throughout the process, thus serves school of learning for the next construction.
To visit the Forest of Peace, see construction methods, buy plants or stay, contact:
Piet Sabbe & Olda Peralta
Phone: 00 593 (0) 6 2648692”
Of course Piet and Olga are not the only people following this recipe of transformation.  The East Bali Poverty Project has had similar successes, as have farmers in Ethiopia and China, and recently Carlos Alvarez of Argentina wrote:
“Piet and Olga’s very interesting article that presents a combination of vetiver and bamboo for ecological restoration, among other applications, works not only in tropical areas but also is applicable to temperate zones.
Here in Argentina some years ago we applied this same approach to a 5 hectare pilot area. Our sandy semi-desert province of San Luis, has a mild continental climate. Using bamboo, vetiver  "Ful" and buckthorn, with prominence of the first, in just three years we were able to change the landscape by generating organic matter and soil enrichment.  Needless to say, apart from their environmental impact these three species also have economic byproducts.
The value of this experience was to demonstrate that combinations of vetiver and other pioneer plants that can cope with adverse climatic and soil conditions, as in this case, can significantly improve the characteristics of certain areas and help bring the land back to its former quality”. 


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