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The Vetiver Man of Alge-Sachi – Illubabor Province of Ethiopia

Monday, May 31, 2010

I am fascinated by Ethiopia, partly because I worked there in the 1960s, and of course because of the Vetiver development that has taken place there over the past 20 years.  Yes, its 20 years since the concept of using Vetiver for soil and water conservation took root, following a one day seminar given by Jim Smyle in Addis Ababa.  A lot has happened in the intervening time thanks to the efforts of our Ethiopian friends. In particular I want to recognize the staff of SLUF - Ethiopian Sustainable Land Use Forum - see picture to left with their vetiver hats and bags - who in recent years have taken the lead in extending the Vetiver System to many new users in Ethiopia. some of their key leaders, like Debela Dinka were the first to introduce vetiver to farmers in the early 1990s
A few months ago I introduced you to the Vetiver Man of Talube.  Now I want you to meet the Vetiver Man of Alge-Sachi District.  Debela Dinka, Ethiopia Vetiver Network Coordinator,  and operations chief of SLUF – Ethiopia’s Sustainable Land Use Forum wrote:
“The new Vetiver Man is Mr. Dheress Gella who farms some 54 miles north of Mettu town .  He first quarreled with his son, Zewdu, about planting Vetiver for Soil and Water Conservation.  Then his younger brother, Arega Bella, and I sent him to visit Hassan Ali’s farm (there is a video on YouTube about Hassan Ali) to share Hassan’s experience.  After half a day there he was converted and is now the Vetiver Man of Sachi.  Farmer to farmer extension works pretty well!"
Here follow some other images that Debela sent me recently"

Left, some really nice vetiver hedgerows grown at 1700 m asl. in the western highlands of Ethiopia.  When planted over large areas there is significant improvement in groundwater recharge and downstream wetland recovery

Left, SLUF is starting to encourage the development of privately owned "vetiver banks" where a farmer develops a vetiver nursery and then "sells" vetiver slips to other farmers for cash or credit. Thos ewho buy on credit return to the farmer the same number as he "bought" plus additional ones in the form of "interest".  A good social community network makes the approach workable and effective.

Left, well grown vetiver produces large quantities of biomass.  This can be used as mulch, thatch, or fuel, or for making compost.  Where firewood is scarce this biomass could be converted into briquettes and sold to urban folks to fuel improved (biochar?) stoves.

Left: SLUF has started promoting vetiver for road fill and cut stabilization.  In April, Roley Noffke and Elise Pinners (TVNI Directors) assisted SLUF in a one week workshop for the Ethiopian Roads Authority.  Turned out to be pretty successful and the Authority engineers are most interested to expand the use of Vetiver for this purpose.  This should be good for farmers who can supply the plant material.  SLUFF has also been introducing VS to the Electricity Corporation of Ethiopia.

Left: As one drives through African villages and towns one often see dreadful roadside erosion that cuts back into the "yard" of adjacent houses.  Vetiver can help stop that, and can also act as an effective privacy hedge.  It also reduces the number of snakes, probably because rats don't generally nest in vetiver - no rats - no snakes!

Have you ever heard of the Afar depression.  A very hot area of Ethiopia. The image to the left shows vetiver growing there.  Note that this vetiver is the same cultivar that is grown in the highlands - looks good, but unlike its non flowering cousins in the highlands it is flowering.  Must be a response to harsher conditions.


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