Farm and Resource Management Institute ViSCA, Baybay, Leyte, Philippines
Presented at the Second International Vetiver Conference, Thailand Jan 19th to 22nd, 2000
In January 1990, the Farm and Resource Management Institute (FARMI) of the Visayas State College of Agriculture (ViSCA), Baybay, Leyte, Philippines implemented a project entitled Upland Agriculture-Philippines. The project funding comes mainly from the International Development Research Center (IDRC) of Canada. The main objective of the project was to test, adapt and promote technologies that would address the problem of soil erosion and soil nutrient depletion in the uplands which is the most extensive and most threatened ecosystem in the Philippines. FARMI selected a pilot research site covering five upland villages in the municipality of Matalom, province of Leyte. Two of the selected villages are characterized mainly by calcareous soils where corn is most widely grown. The other villages have strongly acidic, degraded, and infertile soils where upland rice is the predominant crop.
A study of the farming systems in these villages revealed that farmers have developed their own technique to fight soil erosion. A considerable number of farmers practiced "kahon-kahon" or natural grass strips in minimizing soil erosion in sloping fields. However, the dominant grass species in the natural vegetative strips are not strong enough to hold the soil especially during heavy rains. The project tried to improve the farmers' technology by searching for alternative grass species that is potentially superior than cogon (Imperata cylindrica) and other dominant native species in the grass strips.
Few months earlier, an interesting species was observed in another municipality. The grass was planted by farmers along the dikes of lowland rice fields for the purpose of stabilizing the dikes. The farmers called the grass Mora and after verification, it turned out that Mora is actually Vetiver grass. Many farmers thought that Mora was not adaptable to the uplands. The first trial planting of Mora to test its adaptability to an acid infertile upland area of Matalom was done by the project in January 1990. A dry spell struck the area from February through May of the same year. When Mora survived this drought, its adaptability to the uplands and its being drought-tolerant were confirmed.
The project invited 12 farmers from three villages to view a slide show on the vetiver grass technology. The slide set was obtained by FARMI from the vetiver network (TVN). The farmers were also brought to the testing field to observe the grass. The farmers signified their interest to try Mora as hedgerow species in their farms. The project provided some planting materials to interested farmers in one barangay. In the other two barangays, the farmers secured the planting materials by themselves from nearby lowland areas. In June 1991 the number of farmers who have tried planting Mora has increased to 17. The farmers were requested by the project to monitor and give their evaluation of the grass.
The first evaluation generated the following farmer feedbacks:
Five years later, the project received the following farmers' comments:
10. In just few cropping seasons the effect of Mora in controlling soil erosion was already evident. I measured about 60-cm thick of soil trapped at the upper base of the Mora hedges. Gullies were observed in the portion without Mora.
11. Mora survives long droughts. It regrows or produces roots at the nodes making it effective as contour riser stabilizer.
12. Corn planted near the Mora produced bigger ears than those near the napier.
The Philippine Vetiver Network Established
The farmers positive feedback on vetiver grass inspired the project staff to make VGT as a very important component of FARMI's Sustainable Upland Farming Program. With TVN's financial support, an easy to follow technology guide on VGT based on farmers experiences was published in English and in two local dialects. The technoguide was used as the basic VGT instructional material for the institute's Soil and Water Conservation and Agroforestry projects. Perhaps TVN recognized this effort for few months latter Dick Grimshaw invited the author to lead in the establishment of a vetiver network for the Philippines.
The Vetiver Network-Philippines (VETINETPHIL) was officially established on 5 August 1997 during the First Vetiver Conference-Workshop held at ViSCA, Baybay, Leyte. The network has more than 500 members at present and continues to attract students, researchers, farmers, extension workers, private and government organizations and other people who have interest in the VGT.
The VETINETPHIL Vision
Soil erosion controlled, lands rehabilitated, and embankments stabilized in the Philippines through the VGT.
The VETINETPHIL Goal
To promote the adoption of Vetiver Grass Technology (VGT) in the Philippines.
The VETINETPHIL Objectives
VETINETPHIL Strategy and Accomplishment
The Vetiver Network Membership
The Vetiver Network (TVN) provided the list of its members in the Philippines. Using the list, people were invited to attend the first Vetiver National Conference. Aside from the list, people who have known to have already engaged in vetiver works were also invited to the VETINETPHIL launching conference. The network now has more than 500 members who are directly or indirectly engaged in vetiver-related activities.
To facilitate implementation and monitoring of VETINETPHIL activities, area coordinators for the country's three main groups of islands were designated. The network has designated Ms. Noah Manarang of the Vetiver Farms Inc. to coordinate network activities for Luzon, Mr. Andy Obusa of FARMI for the Visayas and Mr. Jun Talpis of CARE-Philippines for Mindanao. Recently, Mr. Tanny Mobe was designated coordinator for Central Visayas due to the increased vetiver activities in the area. The area coordinators serve as the direct contact person in the area and will assist the national coordinator in carrying out activities and projects of the network.
As part of VETINETPHIL extension strategy, it has set up 3 VGT technodemo and training centers. For agriculture, they are located in Inopacan, ViSCA campus and Matalom. The centers catered to farmer-to-farmer training on soil and water conservation and agroforestry. The Department of Agriculture also managed technodemo farms in Kananga and Tacloban, both of Leyte Province. A dozen farms in Western Leyte also serve as demonstration farms and are usual destinations of cross site visits of farmers, extension workers and researchers from other areas. For infrastructure, the Department of Public Works and Highways has a demonstration project in Aklan province (in collaboration with the Vetiver Farms, Inc.), Infanta, Quezon and Baybay, Leyte. The Cebu Uniting for Sustainable Water (an NGO) also has vetiver-coco erosion net demonstration in Cebu-Balamban Highway.
Training and Cross-site Visits
In collaboration with FARMI and other organizations, VETINETPHIL offered farmer-to-farmer training on Soil and Water Conservation and Agroforestry. The network conducted a total of seven trainings (72 farmers) and cross site visits of six groups of farmers and agricultural technicians from Visayas and Mindanao. Planting materials were distributed in both activities.
The network produced and distributed nationwide the Vetiver Technoguide in English and local dialects, the Vetiveria Newsletter, inserts to PRVN Vetiverim, Newsletter, the "Save our Soil: Use Vetiver" poster, and the Vetiver Grass Technology in the Philippines colored booklet. It also produced posters for presentation in conferences and symposia, stickers and some advertisement and articles in different print media in the Philippines. It also modified the Vetiver slide story now with audio tape. VETINETPHIL members also produced video on "Vetiver Nursery Establishment" by Noah Manarang of Vetiver Farms Inc. and vetiver brochures/leaflets by the Environmental Research and Development Bureau of the Cordillera Autonomous Region, Baguio City. The network has also produced and aired VGT technology tips at DYAC radio at ViSCA.
Conferences, Workshops and Technical Assistance
The network has sponsored 3 national conferences and workshops and conducted a dozen of local meetings. It also presented papers and posters in international, national and local symposia. As part of VGT promotional strategy, the network offered free technical assistance to various government and non-government projects (agriculture, agroforestry, infrastructure, etc.) in different parts of the country. As a result, VGT has been integrated in various government programs like the Hillyland Research and Development Program of the Agriculture and Fishery Modernization Act (AFMA) and in various NGOs' upland development projects. The network also took part in the offering of vetiver short course during the Bioengineering Conference in Manila in April 1999.
Production Farms and Nurseries
The network's VGT promotional effort has resulted to the increased in demand of planting materials either bagged or fresh tillers. VETINETPHIL encourages members to produce vetiver planting materials for big time users. Now it has more than 30 farmers engaged in the production of planting materials for the market. Most of these farmers maintained farms with vetiver hedgerows. The Provincial of Agriculture Office in Leyte has also ordered all its municipal agriculturists to establish vetiver propagation plots. The network has maintained its own production farm and nursery to supply free planting materials to farmers, friends, NGOs, people's organizations, government projects, and members who want to use VGT or start a production project. The network's nursery also serves as the farmer-members collection area of tillers for the market.
There are member-NGOs who have commercialized the production and marketing of vetiver planting materials. Example of these are the Green Gold in Ozamiz, Mindanao; PEOPLE in Ormoc, MAFUD in Leyte, CUSW in Cebu and many more. But the biggest suppliers of planting materials are the private farms/firms which are capable of producing millions of planting materials in one production cycle. The number one producer of vetiver planting materials in the Philippines today is the Vetiver Farm Inc., which was set up entirely on a commercial basis to supply planting materials and promote VGT throughout the country. Another future big supplier is the FF Cruz Corporation in Central Luzon who set up a 10-hectare production farm in Nueva Ecija. The firm propagates vetiver for its Ambuklao Dam and coastal road projects and for other users.
The following are the linkages established by VETINETPHIL with different agencies, organizations and projects/programs in the Philippines. Agency's projects include planting material production and marketing, promotion, publication, research and application of VGT.
- Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) - VGT application and demonstration
- Department of Agriculture (DA) - nurseries/production plots and training
- Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) - application in selected sites
- Local Government Units (LGU) - pilot sites and farmer-to-farmer SWC training
- Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) - research and VGT application
- Central Luzon State University (CLSU) - research, application and demonstration
- Visayas State College of Agriculture (ViSCA) - research, training and extension
- Department of Tourism (DOT) - VGT application in hilly ecopark
- Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) - application in ARC SWC projects
- National Irrigation Administration - application and demonstration
Government Special/Bilateral Projects:
- Presidential Commission for Tagaytay-Taal - promotion of VGT
- National Integrated Protected Areas Programme (NIPAP) - application and promotion
- Western Samar Agricultural Resources Development Programme (WESAMAR) - application in upland development projects
- Small Islands Agricultural Support Services Programme (SMISLE) - application in upland farms and irrigation projects
Philippine-Based International Project/Organizations:
- International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) - training and publication
- Forage for Small Holders Project (CIAT-FSP) - application in hilly forage production farms
- ICRAF-Mindanao - research on Vetiver and other grasses
- SEAMEO Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) - research and application in project sites in Mindanao Fallow Management-Philippines
Member-agencies engaged in soil research and management
- Conservation Farming in the Tropical Uplands (CFTU)
- research and extension (20 member-agencies in the Philippines)
- CARE-Philippines - application of VGT
- DOLE Philippines - application in banana and pineapple plantation
Aside from studies conducted by the network members, VETINETPHIL also supported some studies conducted by university students. Some of the completed studies include:
Elements for the Fast Adoption of VGT
Multimedia Promotion and Extension System
The network used various extension methods from conventional training and visit method to high technology using the internet, videos and CD.
Active Area Coordinators
The coordinators contributed much in running the network particularly in promoting the vetiver grass technology.
Commercialization of Vetiver Grass
The commercialization of vetiver grass has helped create awareness and interest among the big time VGT users.
Participation of the Private Sector
The private sector played an important role in the promotion and marketing of VGT and in the production of planting materials.
The availability of funds was very crucial in running the network particularly at the earlier stage of the project. Member organizations have recently started supporting some of the activities of the network.
The communication facilities and computer system provided by TVN were indispensable in the day to day operation of the network.
The most important problem met was the failure of the coordinator to visit most members' projects/activities due to time constraints and the distance or location of members. Only very few members have access to the internet so communication is still done the conventional means. Majority of the members is not replying letters and network requests.
The conservation and protection of our soil and water resources are very crucial towards sustainable agricultural production and the enhancement of environmental quality. The unmitigated soil erosion brought about by agricultural activities, road construction, mining and water resources development among others necessitates immediate remedial action. Carrying out this urgent task requires adoption of the VGT in a national scale. The birth of the Vetiver Network-Philippines was very significant in the promotion of the technology in the Philippines.
The spread of the VGT in the Philippines in the past two years has been considered fast by many people. There are various factors that contributed to this success, one of which is the participation of the private sector. The VETINETPHIL and its partner organizations will continue its aggressive promotion of the VGT and will exert all efforts to assure massive adoption of the technology in the early years of the new millenium.