Vetiver Top Conservation Option In Ethiopia

Friday, October 16, 2009

Last March, The Vetiver Network International (TVNI) helped sponsor a Vetiver System workshop in Ethiopia. It seems that somebody listened. Dick Grimshaw, Chairman of TVNI shared a message that he received from Belayneh Adugna, the Up-Scaling Component Coordinator and Soil and Water Conservation Specialist of GTZ-Amhara Sustainable Land Management Program. Belayneh Adugna said:

The progress made so far to scale-up the Vetiver System in Amhara region is promising. Many government and non government organizations who are working in the area of soil and water conservation are giving due attention to promote Vetiver as the best solution for agricultural development and natural resources conservation. Vetiver nurseries are established in each corner of the region. Even private farmers are producing Vetiver planting materials and generating income by selling Vetiver seedlings.

Moreover, the Vetiver System is the top in the agenda of options for sustainable land management and included in the governments extension technologies package. So, I am sure we can make a difference in this country through the application of the Vetiver System. Actually we need to do a lot of capacity building works at all levels.
Dick Grimshaw commented: "It is a real pleasure to see the progress being made in Ethiopia with the continued expansion of the Vetiver System for soil and water conservation. There is a lot written and talked about relating to combating climate change in Africa and improving agricultural production.

"The possibilities of irrigation are very limited as compared to south and east Asia. Africa has to optimize her rain-fed agriculture - a primary concern must be erosion control, soil nutrient retention, and in-situ soil and water conservation. The Vetiver System is proving to be the least costly and most effective method of achieving these objectives. If widely applied it might indeed prove to be a precursor to a new "Green Revolution" for tropical agriculture."

I am hoping that the rest of the world will not wait for near-disaster conditions before implementing sensible soil conservation practices. Anybody else listening?

Vetiver as a Landscaping Plant

Thursday, October 15, 2009

OK, I am guilty as charged. With thousands of Vetiver plants in my nursery and hundreds of others doing their conservation job around my farm, I too forget what an attractive plant this can be in a formal or tropical garden. I train my plants to survive in the harshest environments with almost nonexistent water, fertilization, and love. I am used to seeing them look scrawny and angry from neglect, but I know that I can count on them to do their job without a complaint.

Lately, I have been planting a few short rows near the house as part of our landscaping. At the risk of establishing a bad precedent with the not-so-lucky rest of the pack, these puppies get regular sprinkling, fertilizing, and trimming. That is when you realize that this lush, green grass can hold its own against any of the more popular decorative grasses that you pay so much more for.

I do not expect to see gardening books written about Vetiver, but my good friend Tony Cisse, editor of the blog Pepiniere Naaj Baal in Senegal created a document called Vetiver Grass for Landscaping with a great photo collection. We have three and six-plant packs in our store that enjoy in your garden. Try it out . . .

Client Profile - Vetiver in Defense of Road Embankments

Friday, October 2, 2009

In my frequent presentations to government agencies and professional groups, I always say that, although Vetiver has been in Puerto Rico for over a 100 years, it arrived without an instruction manual. Since then, the planting methodology known today as the Vetiver System has demonstrated the plant's ability to become an important part of the solution in a soil stabilization problem. Nowhere is this more evident in our island than in our road embankments, where most of the soil has a very high clay content and is very prone to slippage after it becomes saturated with heavy rains.

Not long ago,
I was invited to deliver a Vetiver presentation to the design engineers of our Highways Authority, an agency within the Department of Transportation and Public Works. Instead of the two persons that I expected at that meeting, I was privileged to have an audience of nineteen. Within two weeks we were involved in a project on Road 30, a major highway where a low point in the road spills a high volume of water over a steep embankment.

Although this project was close to completion near the town of Las Piedras, the Highways Authority, asked their contractor, Constructora Hartmann, to additionally protect the gabion structures and soil fill by adding 4000 Vetiver plants in strategically planted rows that will provide added stability and contain soil erosion over the surface of the reconstructed slopes.

Engineer Enrique Hartmann, and his namesake father made sure that their staff attained proficiency in the proper planting techniques in accordance with the Vetiver
System guidelines. The attached picture and more in this additional Picasa Album attest to this well-done job. I feel confident that this first trial of the Vetiver plant in a major road stabilization project will provide the validation needed for its widespread acceptance. I will update this blog in the future with more pictures and results.

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