Vetiver Hedges for Soil Conservation with Alternative Crops in Peru
Dr. Julio Alegre, Ing. Luis Arévalo, Ing. Abel Meza
Email:mailto:Julio Alegre <J.ALEGRE@CGNET.COM>
Slash and burn agricultural and clearing of forest are traditional practices in the Peruvian jungle and the area of Aguaytía is no exception to this practice. Ash deposts which result from the burning contains nutrients that fertilize crops, but heavy rains on the sloping and hilly topography lead to problems associated with runoff and of nutrient and soil losses from erosion. This is the reality which agricultural projects encounter.
During 1999, the International Center for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) has been continuing its involvment in the project "Promotion of Agroforestry Systems for Economic Development and Conservation of Natural Resources in the Peruvian Amazon" with financing from US AID (via Winrock) under their Alternative Development Program. Emphasis is on the use of simple management practices and soil conservation with the goal of reducing erosion problems and its consequences and contribute to the sustainability of alternatives crops. Such sustainabale practices focus on agroforestry, use of adequate quantities of fertilizers (both organic and synthetic) and contour planting (utilizing the A-level) of crops and vegetative hedges with Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides).
Below is a brief summary of the reasons for Vetiver Grass Technology (VGT) promotion:
All these qualities have increased the awareness amongst farmers this region highly susceptible to erosion where Aguaytía is located, where until today little or no conservation awareness existed. Previously ICRAF, in coordination with the projects financed by WINROCK-AID, had initiated use of VGT in areas growing or planning on raising alternative crops. Thus, villages located along the Federico Basadre Highway such as San Pedro de Chio (km. 139), Aguas Verdes (km. 143) y Huipoca (km. 148) already have propagation nurseries of Vetiver (containing about 600-900 each) that will supply their own parcels and those of their neighbors. Some have started to plant using the A-level between rows of "pijuayo" for palmito production. Along with this is intense training regarding the proper aspects of soil management in hillside farming.
It is worthwhile mentioning that due to vetiver's wide utility, it has been required that plantain producers in the neighboring zones of the Aguaytía River plant vetiver. Their practices have caused erosion problems along the river, destroying riverbanks during the rainy season. In these areas it is used to stabilize and prevent the silting up of drainages and ditches that are used to drain areas under plantain cultivation.