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Vetiver System "Farmer's Venture brings fortune"

Monday, January 3, 2011

Yesterday I wrote about Paul Kombo, located at Voi, Kenya.  Here is some more about his vetiver business.

From the People's Daily - Kenya. January 3 2011

Paul Mwadime Kombo is a Voi farmer and environmentalist who is in a class of his own. His decision to venture into the cultivation of the rare and highly valued vetiver grass has seen his life change for the better. He is now able to support his family as well as interacting with researchers and scientists from different parts of the world.

The rare grass was introduced to him by an American Peace Corps Eric Jolliffe in Sagalla in the year 2001 where together with an American researcher and forester, they began sensitising the local community on the value of the rare grass which is used word wide to safeguard against soil erosion as well as serving as fodder for livestock, thatching material, making handcrafts and a host of other uses. "Later Danida chipped in and supported our initiative. In October 2001 I bought 192 pieces of vetiver grass and started a small farm in Sagalla," says Kombo. In the year 2004 the farmer moved from Sagalla to Voi where be rented a 5-acre piece of land at Gimba village and planted an even bigger area of the invaluable grass. "My project was doing well until arsonists invaded my farm in broad daylight in 2008 and set the grass on fire. To date I still believe this was an act of sabotage. Apparently there were people who were not happy with the progress I was making," he says. "But I have put all that behind me and my desire for cultivating vetiver was not dampened," he said.

He says he later acquired 45 acres of land at Msinga near Tsavo East National Park where he is currently cultivating 5 acres under vetiver which he uses for terrace demarcation as well as intercropping with maize, vegetables and other crops. He has also ventured into dairy goat keeping, and plans to go into horticulture farming. "My plans are to have the largest commercial vetiver nursery in East and Central Africa and I am confident that I will make this achievement," he says optimistically. He added: "Vetiver cultivation is not labour intensive and requirements like such as fertilisers and pesticides are not necessary. Yet the grass fetches relatively good returns." He says he sells the grass at Sh 6 per piece for more than 10,000 pieces purchased, and Sh10 for less than 10,000 pieces. (Sh 80 = US$1)

"Through the sale of the grass I have been able to support my family by paying school fees for my children and other needs as well as putting up a Sh 1.5 million house in Kalolepi in Voi," he says confidently. He says during the month of December alone he sold vetiver worth Shl 100,000 to an agricultural non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Neighbours Initiative Alliance from Kajiado County. He says that he has also been invited by the NGO to visit the farmers there and offer capacity building to local farmers. Kombo is quick to point out that he is the first in the area to commercialise vetiver grass farming. His rare grass farmingventure has seen him establish contacts overseas including America where he is a member of Vetiver Network International. He is also a member of Vetiver Network Kenya chapter. On a different score Kombo is a founder member of Mseto Environmental Group based in Voi which has been active in addressing conservation issues in the area especially soil erosion and destruction of forest cover. Kombo, who is also a member of Voi district environmental committee, says Mseto began with 25 members who have now fallen to only eight. He says that this has been due to the fact that some members had joined the group thinking that they would make quick returns but when they realised this was not so, they chose to quit.

"A lot of patience is needed in any endeavour. Those who quit left because they had expected to reap quick returns before the time was ripe. But I am happy working with the few dedicated members left in the group," he says in a matter off act way.

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