If you or the agency that you work with would be interested in supporting a vetiver
project in Ethiopia please contact:
Tessema Chekun Awoke
Addis Ababa Ethiopia
or The Vetiver Network
Soil erosion is relentless process that is usually difficult to control and easily
accelerated by man. Massive soil erosion has massive resultant effects. As witness, the
impact on the highlands of Ethiopia. The prevention of soil erosion, which is "a
survival issue relies on selecting a practical and inexpensive, but effective methods of
soil & water conservation. One such option is the use of Vetiver hedge row, which have
shown effective results worldwide. The theme of this project is to promote the adaption
& utilization of vetiver technology in Amhara Regional State where vast areas of
fertile croplands are damaged each year through soil erosion caused mainly by rainfall
runoff. The duration of the project is two years as a pilot project, however there will be
continuation based on the results of the first phase. The project will be carried out in
21 Woredas & the cost is estimated to be Birr 80,000 per project Woreda (county) or
Birr 1,680,000 for all project woredas.
The total area of Amhara Regional State is about 16,760,000 hectares. Of which 56 % is cultivated land, while 200,273 hectare (1.8 %) is rock out crop and/or exposed sand surface with or with out shrubs (Woldegebrial,1995). The region occupies more elevated parts of Ethiopia.
The Blue Nile and its tributaries drain the greater part of the region. Kebena, Kessem,Milla, Jarra and Borkena Rivers are the major tributaries of the Awash River, which drain the eastern escarpments of the region. The Tekeza River which rises to the north of Woldia town, capital of north Wollo divides north Gondar from north Wollo and forms the northern boundary of the Regional State. Ingeneral,all land in all watersheds, where aver the soil permits, is cultivated. There are only few patches of forest covers remaining. About 286,570 hectare ( 1.65 %) of the total area of the region is estimated to be forest & wood land. Of which, 0.93 % have been already heavily disturbed by man leading to soil loss & degradation.
Decline of crop yield per unit area, from year to year, is the major socio-economic & agricultural problems of the Regional State, together with energy crisis and increasing population, have entailed the exploitation of high & precipitous slopes and more erosion sensitive lands to crop production. This in turn, has caused degradation of thousands of hectares of land and many have been eroded to underlying rock and soil cover lost. More over, the method of cultural practices associated with energy resource utilization, crop and livestock production are notably damaging the natural resource bases of the region. Ingeneral, soil erosion is the major ecological problem & obstacle for agricultural development in the Regional State.
Soil erosion by water robs the productivity of the soil through leaching, reducing water holding capacity, degrading soil structure and eventually leaving the land non uniform. As a result land holding shrinks, crop yield decreases and famine and drought become the farm economy of the area. All these problems manifest them selves in the majority areas of the Amhara Regional State. The destruction of vegetation cover by land clearing, fuel cutting, overgrazing and non conservation oriented farming practices are the causative agents for soil erosion and land degradation. As reported by the Ethiopian Highland Reclamation Study (EHRS, 1984) 27 % (over 14 million hectare) of the highland area of Ethiopia were seriously eroded and some 6 million hectare should be completely withdrawn from agricultural use to be reafforested. A further 13 million hectare were moderately eroded. Of the remaining 28 million hectare about 54 % is susceptible to erosion, requiring some form of soil conservation measures. Among the areas where the highest rate of soil erosion were found are Wollo, Gondar and some part of Gojam and Shewa.
Conversely, the estimated sheet & rill erosion of the region (Gzachew Abegaz,1995) indicates that 10 % of the total area of the region loses more than 201 tons per hectare per annum & 29 % of the area losses 51-201 tones per hectare per year. While,another 32 % of the land area losses 16- 51 tones per hectare per year. Indeed, mere than 60 % of the land area of the region is being threatened by soil erosion and land degradation.This ongoing degradation threatens not only millions of Ethiopians to day, but more millions of Ethiopians as yet un born. This indicates that, all arable land & areas to be afforested and/or all watersheds in the Amhara Regional State require an intensive soil conservation & land management practices to prevent further deteriorations and/ or to re-inverse the degradation processes.
Until recently, both people and government with various external assistance agencies are attempting to respond to the challenges of land degradation,and an impressive actions have been made on solving the problems of soil erosion. But there has been an over-reliance on structural soil conservation measures; Included, soil bund, fanya juu, stone bund, stone check dams, bench terraces. Although, these conservation measures have shown effective results in some pocket areas, they were without much success in many parts of Ethiopia . The major reason is either they are to laborious and time taking to construct and/or they are not appreciated by the land users or they don't fit to the farming systems of the areas, or they need more technical inputs. In cognition of these facts, coupled with the ecological problems the regional state has faced (taking into account the land area that is being threaten by degradation ) infatuation with only structural conservation measures as the only solvent for soil erosion & land degradation hazards would mean neglecting the rehabilitation, the socic-economic and/or agricultural development programs of the regional state.
One potential option which could be a fast & effective solution to the erosion and land degradation problems of the region is promotion of vegetative conservation measures with herbaceous and/or grass species, which have proven their effectiveness in many developing countries. Among various vegetative methods, vetiver hedges are found very effective and cheaper. This method is drawing greater attention during recent years. This is attributable that, Vetiver zizanoides is not site specific, it grows in a wide variety of soils and climatic conditions, it is easy to establish, it is not time consuming, a larger Km. can be established within a season, it can with stand livestock browsing and trampling. Thus the promotion of Vetiver as a strategic soil conservation measure, in the Amhara Regional State, seems an ideal & a timely action to halt soil erosion and land degradation, which should be the highest priority in rural development programs of the state.
Vetiver technology promotion, in the Amhara regional state is therefore, a drive against land degradation; a drive towards once existed production level; a drive to food security & against famine:
According to the study conducted by the Watershed Development & Land Use Department (January 1995), the physiography of the region is steep fault scraps and adjoining low land plains in the east,nearly flat plateaus and mountains in the centre and erosional land form in the north and else where (Abayneh Esayas,1995). The mean annual rainfall in the region varies between 300 mm in the east & northern Wollo Zone to over 2000 mm. in western Gojam zone. While, the western part gets rainfall in excess of 1200 mm (Woldegebriel,1995). The diversity of physiography & altitude, rainfall and parent material together with the effects of historical land use results in the formation of different soil types across the region. Depressions & flat plains are dominated by vertisols, while the mountains and degraded landscapes of Wollo & North Gondar are mainly shallow Cambisols and/or Lithosols. soils of undulating to gently rolling highland areas are deep Luvisols Nitosols and Acrisols (Abayneh, 1995).
The major objective of the project is to promote the widespread adaption of vetiver hedges for soil conservation in erosion prone Weredas (areas) of the Amhara regional state
Vetiver zizanoides is a clump grass, deep rooted,with strong and dense leaves and drought,livestock & flood resistance. It thrives in arid & humid conditions (annual rainfall of 300 to 3000 mm) and grows on variety of soils with practically no limitation & it grows successfully on shallow, rocky, acidic & saline soils. These multi-fold and unique characteristics make Vetiver A "Miracle Grass" that can survive in all areas of the region.
Values in Other Countries
Vetiver grass has been used as an effective vegetative hedge in West Indies and Fuji on slopes > 50 % cultivated with annual and/or perennial crops for more than a century. Currently, its effectiveness has been proven both by research findings & field studies, in many countries, included, Thailand, India, Malaysia,Venezuela,peru, South Africa, Ghana, Nepal, Australia, South Africa etc. Thus the long successful histories of vetiver are witness for its success in the Amahara regional state.
The introduction of vetiver grass to Ethiopia is controversial, some say that it was introduced in the 1960's by a British scientist who was working in Jimma Research centre as coffee intesification program, others say it was introduced by Ethiopian coffee researchers, who were once on educational tour in India, while other say, it was introduced by an Indian scientist, who was working as an expatriate in the Jimma research centre. On the other hand, the aim of the introduction of vetiver to Ethiopia is not well recorded. But personnel communications indicate that, either it was introduced for the purpose of dividing & demarcation of coffee research treatments, especially, on slopey lands, so that the effects of one treatment will not have influence on other treatments. Because,the hedge rows will halt runoff and wash-out of fertilizer or pesticides, or it was introduced for the purpose of biological weed control against couch grass (Digitata scalaum). Never the less, the utilization of vetiver's potentials was started in early 1980's as barrier against the spread out of couch grass by state owned large coffee estates, in south-west Ethiopia.
Conversely, the potentials of vetiver hedge rows to stem soil erosion was realized in the late 1980's as an out come of a workshop conducted on vetiver grass, which was organized by the World Bank representative office in Ethiopia. The Ex- Ministry of Coffee & Tea Development (ExMCTD), which was responsible for the implementation of land resource conservation & development works, for the long term productivity of coffee growing areas, recognized vetiver as a multi purpose grass for practical uses,such as,an effective hedge rows for the problems of soil erosion, as a source of mulch & thatch material; as a biological weed control mechanism, in coffee culture. The ex- MCTD took initiation and geared the promotion of vetiver technology in its working areas, stretched in the southern, western & eastern parts of Ethiopia,which covers an area of about 72,000 sq.km (53 Woredas ) with a total household of 794,000 smallholder. Thus, the Ex- MCTD was the pioneer of vetiver hedge row for soil conservation in Ethiopia. Since 1990, Vetiver hedge rows have been widely established on different land uses ( perennial, annual crop lands, afforestation areas), on slope gradients ranging from < 8 % to > 50 %), on different soil types and rainfall regimes of high potential coffee zones. As the experiences of MCTD prevails, Vetiver has shown to grow in wide environmental conditions;it has grown successfully in high relief hills with an elevation ranging from 1000 to 2800 masl, it has grown successfully from undulating plain land to very precipitous slopes and in a range of annual rain fall from 900 to 2320 mm. It has proven its ability to survive in shallow Lithosols & Cambisols to the deep Nitosols, Acrisols & Luvisols. These indicate vetiver's potentials to halt soil erosion and also to present other potential economic values for the subsistence farmers of Ethiopian.
In the working areas of Ex- MCTD farmers participation and involvement in the establishment of vetiver hedge rows was high, they showed interest to vetiver for various reasons, such as, it required them less time & technical inputs, easy to replicate and once established it needs little follow-up for further maintenance. Thus as the preliminary experience of Ex-MCTD indicates the acceptance of vetiver hedge rows, for soil conservation, by land users of Ethiopia is un questionable .
As the above paragraphs prevails, Vetiver utilization is Environmental Sound: Socially Acceptable: Economically Feasible & Technically Fit for almost all parts of cereal and perennial crop zones of Ethiopia.
The benefit of the promotion of vetiver hedges for soil conservation measures is introducing easy and applicable technology that farmers can adapt easily & implement by them selves, with out and/or with little technical support. Additionally, a larger area of land can be protected with in a short period of time. Apart from soil conservation, vetiver has also other potential economic values so that, farmers could generate additional benefits such as, thatch material, mulch material, essential oil, animal bedding. Vetiver will also promote rural handicrafts works (cottage industries) and farmers and/ or their dependants can produce marketable items, such as, basket, capes , rope carpets, etc. and generate additional household cash income. These in turn could absorb rural unemployment and decreases rural theft & crimes.
The project will have a two years life as a pilot project. Based on the lesson learned in these two years, a project appraisal will be carried out for future continuation.
Selection of project Woreda
Although all woredas in the region are being threaten by massive soil erosion problem, to start with, at least three Woredas from each zone will be selected. Woreda selection will be done with the consultation of zonal MOA office.
Existing nurseries in Woredas where Vetiver promotion program is going to be implemented will be up- graded and their capacity of production will be increased. Thus, supply of a health and adequate amount of planting stock, on time, will be guaranteed.
At present,adequate amount of planting material is not available in the region. Therefore planting material well be collected from Limu State Coffee Plantation and /or Metu Menschen Fur Menschen Eco development project.
The plot of land will be ploughed, not deeper than 30 cm. and the soil will be loosen, so that it will be a well aerated rooting zone. Clods will be broken up and level blocks will be established. The blocks should be irrigated and/or watered until soil moisture level are Maintained (20 cm. depth). Furrows must be formed where tillers will be planted. Spacing will be 15 cm. & 20 cm. between plant & rows respectively. The root and stem should be trim to about 15 cm. Given proper care, over a period of 6 months each vetiver plant will give into a clamp of numerous slips. each of which will be strong to be planted individually else where .
Interested farmers will be encouraged to establish their own vetiver producing nurseries. Planting stocks & nursery tools will be delivered freely. Technical support will be given to them.
Transporting & Planting
After Carefully removing each plant and separate its slips,then cut the roots & trim the stem to a height of 15-20 cm. Transport in moist condition to the site where they will be planted. After lay out contour lines,A single row of slips will be planted. To guarantee good survival rate, preferable plant two slips at a point and the spacing could be 10-20 cm.between plants.
The interventions will be in two ways i.e Extension approach & Farmers participatory demonstrations.
The approach of promotion of vetiver technology will be based on the following new principles of soil conservation
1. Soil conservation must be done through a bottom up approach: Planned & executed with the full knowledge, cooperation & participation of farmers.
2. Any proposed practice of soil conservation must offer short term benefits to farmers in order to be accepted and must be suitable for the local & climatic conditions to fit the local cropping pattern.
3. Soil conservation must encourage the intensification of plant production from land without soil destruction & nutrient computation with the crops grown on the land.
4. To integrate conservation into agricultural practices harmonize the technical views of experts with that of farmers perceptions & skill .
These inturn require an extensive extension service to ensure long term success of vetiver technology. But most importantly final application & layout should be a compromise between farmers' need & the recommended standard design.
Farmers Participatory Demonstrations
The adoption of new technology is often limited, because it may not always know the farmers specific needs and/ or limitations. As a result, the introduced technologies may not be adapted to fit farmers cultural practices. To avoid this farmers participatory soil conservation demonstration will be carried out on pilot demonstration sites. The farmers participatory pilot demonstration activity will comprise two or more of existing (structural) soil conservation practices and vetiver hedge rows as a new technology. This intervention will enhance adoption by farmers of more suitable conservation practices in the regional state.
Since the promotion of Vetiver Technology for soil conservation is going to be undertaken, using the existing extension networks of MOA, extension workers, who will be involved in the program will be trained on Vetiver Technology. Inturn,the extension workers will train, advice and guide farmers to facilitate the adaption of Vetiver technology .
Vetiver Field Day
Field days will be organized to discuss with farmers in pilot sites. This will give access to farmers to look and discuss about the establishment cost of vetiver hedges, in terms of labour as well as on the survival rate & the amount of sediment that has been trapped by vetiver hedges. Farmers will also compare vetiver technology with other conservation options.Additionally, This will give opportunity to demonstrate the additional benefits that could be driven from vetiver. Farmers "Vetiver" day will be organized at convenient period in each project area.
To establish a healthy competition atmosphere between farmers, a participatory monitoring and evaluation of farmers skill and knowledge on vetiver technology will be carried out. Based on the result of the evaluation best farmers will be selected & awarded in the form of money or in puts, so that other farmers will be encouraged.
To asses how effective the extension is being used to promote the adaption of vetiver technology, regular monitoring & evaluation will be carried out.
Quarterly, annual and financial statements will be submitted regularly to concerned offices.
Since it is essential to evaluate the efficiency of vetiver planted in the pilot project years. A case study of vetiver as a tool for soil & water conservation will be taken-up .
Labour for Conservation Work
The current practice of using local family labour on a voluntary basis will be the major input into the vetiver promotion program.
Since accurate cost breakdown requires a detailed feasibility study of each Woreda (selected for the vetiver promotion program) : A lump-sum money of Birr 80,000 per woreda is estimated. The total project cost will be Birr 1,680 ,000
Tentatively the following schedule is proposed for the implementation of the project activity, and the implementation schedule is divided into three phases: Phase one is mainly introduction & demonstration of vetiver technology; Phase two is more of monitoring, evaluation and improving performance for wider implementation of vetiver technology; while phase three is study and dissemination of vetiver technology to other areas.
Month Proposed activities Phase I 1.August : Selection of Project Woredas (Areas) 2.September- October: Up-grading existing nurseries, planting block preparation 3.November : Distribution of Vetiver Splits for multiplication and production 4.December-June : Planting Stock Production 5.June-July : Planting Vetiver Splints On Conservation Area Phase II 1 October : Monitoring survival rate 2.October ; Distribution of Vetiver Splits for multiplication and production. 3.November-June : Planting Stock Production 4.April : Farmers vetiver field day 5.June-July: Planting Vetiver Splints On Conservation Area . Phase III 1 September-October : Evaluation of project activities. 2.November-December : Case Study; Project Appraisal for continuation of the project.