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Vetiver has done its job! 14 years later stable slopes, clean road drains, and now mainly native species

More on Vetiver and Soil and Water Conservation

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Francis Shaxson, a well know British soil conservationist, once said that one needed a process of "stealth" to get small farmers to use soil conservation practices. You will have sensed, in some of my previous posts on the subject of small farmers, my growing frustration of the slow farmer uptake of the Vetiver System.  Of course there are many ways of creating awareness and the benefits of VS, from involving communities, better training of future soil conservation specialists, to boots on the ground demonstrations and other direct actions.  One area that we have rather neglected, and this came up in a FaceBook post by Catherine Francis (Zimbabwe), is the on farm use of vetiver to support bio fuel needs such as tobacco curing (in many parts of the world rice straw is used for this purpose), furnace feedstock (Gueric Boucard in the Dominican Republic), cooking stove fuel (Haiti Reconstruction, coffee mulch (Ethiopia), treatment of coffee processing effluent (Ethiopia), livestock feed (China and India), source material for handicrafts (Venezuela), and more recently vetiver plant supply for bioengineering purposes (Madagascar) amongst others.  Of course we know about all these uses, but more than likely in our busy and focussed lives we concentrate on a single application of vetiver, and disregard associated uses.  If we can interest farmers in any of these or more applications then they will more than likely be prepared to use vetiver in its hedgerow form for soil and water conservation, indeed in most cases the hedgerow will provide all or part of the biomass for the original need.

This all sounds common sense, it is! However we need to do a lot more to propagate these views. This has to be done by creating policy and demand.  Policy involves government and other agencies seeing the cross sectoral benefits of VS. For example rural health departments could promote vetiver for cleaning up village waste water and rubbish dumps; public works departments could use VS for road side and bridge/culvert stabilization, irrigation departments could use VS for stabilizing canal and drain structures - all would create demand for vetiver plant material at farm level. Mining companies should be using VS for land reclamation. NGOs and others working at community level should see that vetiver is one of the lowest cost community friendly technology that could provide for a host of needs , both on and off farm - all creating demand for plant material. We need to get agro-industrial companies and associations such as British American Tobacco Company (BAT), national crop associations, such as tea, coffee, sugar etc more aware of the potential environmental benefits of applying VS in their industry at farm level, whether it be for soil and water conservation, or for some other use.

We in TVNI can do our bit, but in the end the promotion has to be done by those who use the technology or by policy makers, community activists, NGOs, private sector companies who are directly involved in finding solutions to solve the the myriad of problems facing them today.  So if you happen to know of a problem that might be solved partly or wholly through the use of VS, please talk to someone you might know who might be interested in looking at VS to solve that problem.  If you are in a position to do it why not set up and run a half day workshop to tell other potential users from other sectors how vetiver can be used for applications other than soil and water conservation. Eventually expanded use will come back to the farm, and "stealth" will have succeeded. Another step to poverty reduction will have beeb achieved.


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