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Vetiver handicraft opportunities

Vetiver handicraft opportunities
Vetiver handicrafts around the world

Vetiver for Land Restoration

Vetiver for Land Restoration
An Ecuador experince

Vetiver powers agriculture

Australia - After the "Flood" - the impact of the Vetiver System

Over the years Paul Truong has been using vetiver for various applications, one of them being for flood control at Laidley, Queensland.

The above Google Earth image shows quite clearly (left of yellow pin) vetiver hedgerows planted circa 2004.  The location (27°38'19.20"S  152°23'54.21") was a choke point in the natural drainage system that was eroding badly from water inflow (red arrows) from higher up.  The purpose of the hedgerows was to reduce the velocity of flood water and to stop erosion of the this area and reduction of bank erosion further down stream. Downstream (blue arrow) the flood water was more confined.  Further down you can see from Google Earth imagery (not included here) that just before Ambrose Street in Laidley that the drainage bank has been protected with vetiver.

Paul Truong recently visited this site after the recent flood, he writes ..... "Incredible, the water must have been at least > 3m above vetiver and fast enough to lift these concrete setting fence post and shifted this full (not empty) container from 10 km up stream to next to the vetiver planting. The planting partially save the town from deeper flood as it held back and slowed down the water. I talked to the lady living in the house next to the planting (see the Google Pix blue roof)  and she blamed vetiver for backing up so much water that it flooded her house. But she agreed with me that if all that water had gone unimpeded down stream it would have made the flooding worse in the town."

 Note the bottom image - 3 meters of water had crossed these hedgerows a few weeks ago - one would not know it! - and there is no erosion.

A few lessons to be learned?

We will be receiving more from Paul of other flood sites in the near future.

The importance of volunteers to the Vetiver System

Environmental Volunteer, Laurel Sellers, introduces the Vetiver System in rural Morocco …….

Many Vetiver System initiatives are due to young volunteers who are working all over the world and have learned about Vetiver from TVNI website and other sources, and who are intrigued enough to include VS into their work program and training.  In this column TVNI recognizes one such volunteer – Laurel Sellers.

After testing vetiver growth in a mountain village above Taza, Morocco, I found that my small nursery had flourished and with it had garnered some attention.  I wanted to show people that this plant could be an alternative stabilization option against the strong forces of erosion in this valley village of subsistence farmers.   In the process I became fascinated with the many other applications of the plant.  It became a hobby of mine to try to weave, condense oil, make rope, try ideas from locals, anything really with this dynamic new material.

While on the website I ran across some information and out of personal intrigue I wanted to see if I could make vetiver oil; then I thought about what I would do with it if I could.  The result is pictured here:  vetiver oil scented beeswax candles.  While experimenting in my kitchen, I have found with a pressure cooker and some other basic materials you can condense small amounts of oil.  Later, while using a double boiler I melted the locally obtained beeswax, strained it through some cheesecloth, and added the vetiver oil.  I decorated a jar that I had lying around and was quite pleased with how it turned out.

Displaying my craft and talking to others has engendered more interest in the plant and how it can be combined with existing revenue streams. Its success lies within how easy the value added material is to come by and that they have participated in the plants growth since its inception in the village”.

Soil Erosion pollutes coastal waters around the island of Molokai - Hawai

The GoogleEarth image (2007) above is of part of the Molokai (Hawaii) coast some 6 km west of Kaunakakai.  It is rather typical of coastal water pollution caused by adjacent watershed erosion problems that is causing serious problems to inshore fishery, coral reefs, and tourism. In this image you can see the area of polluted water (red arrows). to the north you can see some major point source erosion of uncultivated land (blue suns).  In the center is some intensively cultivated land, much of it unprotected and another point source erosion site.  I would imagine that if the yellow and blue sites were properly protected much of the ocean sediment would be reduced, as was the case of a point source erosion area in Vanuatu that was protected by Don Miller and had significant impact in reducing nearby coastal water pollution.

There are a number of people now working with the Vetiver System in Hawaii, among them is Bradley Sakamoto who farms near Kaunakakai.  He is very aware of these problems and is trying to get his community to take notice of the problem and do something about it.  Bradley is turning to the Vetiver system for the technical part of the solution.  Below are some images from Bradley showing the sort of land that he is planting vetiver hedgerows on and the great growth of vetiver on these soils.  Vetiver seem to grow very well under Molokai conditions!!

Molokai is just one island amongst thousands in the tropics that have serious erosion and coastal pollution problems.  All of them could use VS.  Its just a matter of getting serious and stepping up to do something about it.

Dick Grimshaw

Haiti Again!

A quick note from Criss Juliard:

"As the WINNER project has a substantial budget, its emphasis on using Vetiver has spawned a “copy” by other projects, donors and NGOs. A new project in the North has signed a 4 year contract with a private vetiver production firm we helped establish to protect watershed covering 4000 ha where they are to plant 750 km of vetiver hedgerow.

For those who knew about the problems in getting the Vetiver System (non-essential oil competitor) accepted by the government of Haiti, its earlier refusal was based on the concern that people would rip up Vetiver plants planted for erosion control and sell them to the essential oil industry. So far, no one of the WINNER project (WINNER stands for Watershed National Natural Environmental Resources) has heard or seen the theft of a vetiver plant of all the zones it  has been planted to date".

I have never accepted "the digging up" of vetiver hedges as a real problem.  In many cases, as in Indonesia, India, and Haiti,  the soil conservation department staff either deliberately concocted the story because vetiver conflicted with their own and alternative agendas, or they misread what was going on in areas where vetiver was cultivated for its aromatic oil.  Often in these circumstances vetiver was planted on already eroded and non productive agricultural land, or planted on very light volcanic "ash" soils that eroded as a result of the vetiver roots being harvested.  This erosion could easily have been prevented by cultivating harvestable vetiver between permanent vetiver hedgerows. - Editor.

Have you visited Mike Mahowald's website Haiti Reconstruction recently?  He has some really interesting info on a wide range of topics including briquetting, composting, dry toilets etc. all with relevance to vetiver.

Vetiver System "Farmer's Venture brings fortune"

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.

The Vetiver System, Africa and Soil Erosion

I want to start 2011 with a blog for Africa.  Unless serious steps are taken to control soil erosion and conserve moisture in Africa the continent and its people face disaster in the long term.  Most of Africa does not have the water resources that India or China have for massive irrigation projects.  Most of Africa is relatively dry, has a hard rock geology and is therefore very dependent on rainfed/dryland farming.  The key question is how can Africa's rainfall be better harnessed and how can its ongoing fertility loss caused by high rural populations and continuous soil degradation be reduced.  Paul Kombo from Voi (adjacent to the famous Tsavo National Park - 500 mm annual rainfall) in Kenya sent me some photos from his farm in Kenya that has benefited significantly from the Vetiver System. Paul is Kenya's largest supplier of quality vetiver plants.  He is promoting the technology, particularly in the coastal region of Kenya

In Ethiopia farmers like Hassan Ali supported by non profit organization, SLUF, technical staff have used VS significantly - Hassan has sent two sons to University from the proceeds of vetiver enhanced crop yields.  Hassan has promoted the technology further to many of his neighboring farmers.  What started nearly 20 years ago with a few farmers in the remote province of Illubabor has spread wide and far in Ethiopia involving tens of thousands of farmers.  The private sector farmers, NGOs and some bilateral agencies such as GTZ have been the main promoters of the technology.

In Malawi there is a country wide vetiver program that was initiated by Glenn Allison who was manager of a European Union project.  Many farmers now use the technology. These are just a few examples, there are many more from Cameroon, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Senegal, Mali, and Madagascar. In every case, individuals who understood the technology and saw the need for it, were the people who got the technology moving.

In the Vetiver System we have a technology that has been proven under most conditions to significantly reduce soil erosion and improve rainfall conservation, increase crop yields and provide many additional benefits.  It is not the only solution, but it is a very good one that is quite easy to apply and is low cost.

It is time that the national governments pay more attention to vetiver - it can make a big difference to rural Africa.

dick Grimshaw

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