Vetiver Grass Technology (VGT) -- Introduction and Promotion In The Amhara Regional State

Prepared By Alemu Mekonnen, The Amhara Regional State/ Bairdar, June 15, 1999



With the help of the Amberstone Trust (UK), TVN has made a agrant of US $10,000 to assist in the establishment of the Amhara Regional State Network and the initation of vetiver development work in two of Amhara's ten zones. I would invite other international NGOs or bilateral agencies to participate in this grass roots, bottom up project in Ethiopia. The program has all the right ingredients for success: it is based on neraly seven years of vetiver development and application in Ethiopia, farmers like and adopt the technology, the project is part of an overall Integrated Food Security Prtgram in Amhara, and finally the Amhara regional State Vetiver Network Coordinator - Mr. Alemu Mekonnen - has been a key figure in vetiver grass tyechnology dissemination in Ethiopia since the early 199os. He is totally committed. If anyagency or individual would like to participate plaese contact:

Alemu Mekonnen, GTZ/IFSP S/Gonder, PO BOX 1072, BAIRDAR, ETHIOPIA Fax/tel : 251 8 111981



Degradation of land continues to pose significant threats to future food production potential in many parts of Ethiopia. Various approaches, mainly based on mandatory policies, have been unsuccessfully tried in the past to encourage adoption of erosion control practices by peasant households. Various Soil and Water Conservation (SWC) programmes, mainly focussing on engineering - mechanical systems were implemented with large investment input from the Government, generous international agencies and local people. About $ US 20 million was disbursed annually during 1980s and 1990s. Farmers' labour involvement amounted to 30 million person - days in a year. With the resource available only 25% of the rehabilitated targets have been accomplished and most of the physical soil conservation structures have since been destroyed. Faster than the degraded land recovers, more land becomes exhausted. Alhough, this cycle continued for decades, and in recent years has been accelerating; however from 1987 onwards, a promising and innovative technology has been introduced to the country which has great possibilities of being the solution for alleviating the soil erosion problem of the country. This technology is called the Vetiver Grass technology.

The objective of this project proposal is to promote extensively the uses of this wonder Grass, Vetiveria zizanioides, in The Amhara Regional State, particularly to the North Gonder and South Wollo Zones which are seriously affected by sheet erosion mainly from farm lands.


Location and Topography

The Amhara regional state is one of 13 Regional states, and is situated North and North West part of the country. It extends from 9 to 13 N and 36 to 40 E. It covers approximately 170,152 km in area, and is moderately compact in shape. The Region is made up of ten administrative zones namely: Wag Himera, North and South Gonder,West and East Gojjam, South and North Wollo, Oromia and Awi. These zones are further divided into 105 districts (hereafter called Woreda).

The region could be broadly viewed as being topographically the most diverse and complex of the all the regions in the country. It is the highest part of the country characterised by rugged mountains, extensive plateau and scattered plains separated by deeply cut gorges, steep slopes and cliffs which makes travel over them very difficult. Due to steep slopes and clearance of vegetation, as a result of growing population and long period of human occupation, relatively heavy rainfall and erosion, the massifs of the region have shallow and stony soils.


Like the rest of the country the region is located within the tropics, thus with no significant variation in day length and angle of the sun. Average annual temperatures are high and variations low. It has a climatic zones ranging from hot dry 800m, to over 4000 mm. Rainfall is bimodial mainly occurring between March to April and July to September. The mean annual rainfall over the whole region varies between 300 and 2000 mm. The amount and the length of the rainfall season decreases North and North East, where this project is most concerned.

Major Occupation and Agro-Ecology

By all accounts, agriculture is the predominant sector of the economy. The sector is primarily dependent on smallholder farming. Smallholders cultivating fragmented micro-holdings produce more than 95% of the annual agricultural output. Despite its pivotal role, the performance of the sectors has remained largely unsatisfactory. Food self-sufficiency remains to be unattained objective. Between 1993/94 food production grew by 0.05% per year while population grew by 3% implying a per capita food production decline of 2.5%. Another serious concern coupled with the stagnation of the sector has been the degradation of the natural base mainly due to soil erosion. The problem of degradation of soil stock and loss of production potential is severe in the highlands, that harbor 88% and75% of the human and live stock population, constitute 95% of the cultivated lands.


The national soil erosion hazard assessment, based on soil erosivity, erodibility and landcover landuse data of 1994, indicates that over the whole country about 1.9 to 3.5 billion tons of soil is eroded and washed away every year. The Ethiopian Forestry Action Plan estimates that in the highland, mainly the Amhara region, this erosion is causing 20,000 - 30,000 ha of crop lands to be abandoned annually, and 2.8 million people will be badly affected by the loss of soil by the year 2010.

Surprisingly, 1.1 billion tons (58%) of the country's total soil losses are eroded from Amhara region which occupies only one sixth of the national's total land mass. Further, 42% of this loss comes from 10% of the regional area, South Wollo and North Gonder with very high erosion hazards. Soil erosion is greatest on arable land where the average annual loss is estimated to be 42 tones / ha and this is six times the rate of soil formation, and probably causes an average annual reduction in soil depth of 4 mm.

Human and livestock density is high in the region leading to a falling per capita land availability. Some studies indicate a 1.7% decline in land:man ratio /year (from 0.4 in 1984 to 0.32 in 1995). Generally speaking, it has been concluded that 70 - 80% of the region's land suffers from high erosion.

Accountable sources of problems for land degradation

A) Disincentive role of food for work

It is a fact, particularly here in Ethiopia, that farmers can not afford to invest much time and energy in conservation activities aimed at improving natural resources management outside their immediate and direct interest.

The disincentive role of grain and oil that has been used for mobilising food-for-work labour in rehabilitation of farm lands is a major factor. Farmers develop a dependency on the grain and oil for almost every kind of development initiative. In most cases farmers destroy functional terraces in order to be paid grain and oil to construct them again. The short-term grain and oil killed their interest for implementing land care activities by themselves. Free will farmers in SWC even on their own land vanished. The huge grain and oil flow and falsely perceived massive involvement of farmers in food-for-work also influenced prioritisation of the food-for-work "culture" development institutions over those which work through natural extension and uptake (like VGT).

B) exclusion of farmers in planning and implementation

This issue high lighted by a consultant who noted that the second most important problem in the country next to the soil erosion itself, is the low rate of adoption of soil and water conservation measures by farmers. According to the same document, the problem is followed by weak soil and water conservation extension services which do not have farmers -based approaches.

C) Lack of farmer - endorsed technologies and stagnation of technologies.

Past SWC research in the country focused on developing, testing and promoting erosion control techniques, mainly engineered systems, to keep the soil in place with little emphasis on their adaptability and economic efficiency. This implies that productivity enhancing SWC technologies adapted to farmers' conditions like that of Vetiver Grass Technology (VGT), are often unavailable. Apart from the lack of suitable technologies, diffusion of any available information to peasants is highly constrained by shortage of good extension programmes for SWC, the latter still forced the majority of farmers to use age-old SWC methods which have not been effective in countering the increasing soil degradation problem.


Without exception, all the zones in the region need SWC programmes. However, due to the limited resources available and to make a good impact on the programmes, it is agreed to concentrate activities and prioritise areas of intervention. Based on in this, in the year 1999 - 2000, greater emphasis will be given to two zones, comprising 10 districts and thirty peasant associations. The areas are South Wollo and North Gonder. South Wollo is well known for its famous drought of 1974 and North Gonder the home of Ethiopian Jews. These areas are selected because of the occurrence of severe land degradation, high population pressure, remotest and neglected part of the region, and potential for future development. The topography, climate and occupations are the same as for the region as a whole. It should be noted that the remaining 8 zones will fall under the general coordination of the Amhara Regional State Vetiver Network (ARSVN) but vetiver programs in the other zones will be the full responsibility of: SIDA (East and West Gojjam and North Wollo), MfM (North Showa) Oromia and Wag Himra (Agricultural bureau). GTZ, SIDA, MfM,CIPAR and Food For Hunger International have all agreed to cover transportation costs of plant material and for some awards.


Today one can see an encouraging start on the implementation of the Vetiver grass technology in some parts of the region. To date there are established 44 nurseries in the whole Amhara Regional State. There are good signs of farmers' acceptance and adoption of the technology; however, in areas that need treatment, there is still a demand to expand the technology. Thus the major objective of the project is:

  1. To support the establishment of the Amhara Regional State Vetiver Network
  2. To introduce, promote and expand the wide spread adaptation of the vetiver hedgrow SWC technology in erosion prone areas of the two zones, 10 woredas and 30 peasant Associations within The Amhara Regional State.


A) Adaptation and experience in the region

From experience in the country and also within Amhara region, especially where IFSP South Gonder project is operating, the grass has been proven to thrive 1000 masl to 3200 masl and from 300 -1000 mm of rainfall. It also seen growing successfully on shallow, rocky, acidic and saline soils. Since the selected zones are similar to the region's agroecological, it will not be difficult to introduce the VGT to these zones.

B) Farmers' acceptance

The success of any technology can be evaluated when the end users accept and implement the activity with their own initiatives without small problem. Thanks to the keen initiatives of the Vetiver Network (TVN) and Integrated Food Security Project (IFSP)of S/Gonder, who took the leading role in the introduction of the technology in to this region, the VGT is now expanding to almost all zones at better pace than our expectation. This can be attributed to the achievements gained since the introduction of the technology in 1997 when the grass was first introduced. At that time there were only two nurseries and only 50 farmers who adopted and applied the grass on their farms, but to day, we see officially. more than 44 nurseries and 700 - 800 farmers using the grass. In addition more and more organisations are becoming interested in using the grass for SWC and other uses.

C) Other reasons for acceptances

  1. There are a lot of valid reasons for farmers to accept the technology. Among others are:
  2. Not a time consuming job: As stated above farmers do not like to spend their time for SWC programme unless paid with food or cash. From what is observed with engineering SWC it takes at least 20 - 45 days to construct terraces on one hectare of farm land at 25% slope compared with Vetiver grass application of 12 hours/ha. This situation attracted most of the farmers to easily use the grass and treat their farm once and for all and use their spare time for other farm activities.
  3. No limit for Age, Sex and profession: Engineering SWC measures usually require good physical fitness and ability. Most of the times men were seen working on engineering SWC. As a result, farm lands owned by weak, disabled and women are left untreated. However, after the introduction of the grass to the region this problem has been improved and the women have benefited more than others.
  4. Avoids Frequent Maintenance : Unlike the engineering SWC measures which require maintenance every year or every second year the well developed hedge row does not need any maintenance except for trimming which is an additional benefits.
  5. Area occupied by SWC measure and Food Security. Land holding in the region or project areas ranges between 0.75 -1 ha. It is estimated up to 14% of the productive area is usually occupied by the terraces. Moreover, there is a complaint from farmers that the structures obstruct and hinders using traditional farming equipment and oxen, and also harbour crop pest, rodents. If a farmer loses 14 % of his farm land and 10-15% crop loses due to rodents harboured in the terraces what is wrong then for the farmer if he/she complains about engineering SWC? And how do we except him/her to be food self sufficient.
  6. Economical Benefits: the area occupied by hedge rows can not be said to be idle because it can produce additional benefits to the owner, like: forage, roof thatching grass, mattress and income from sale of the grass. Beside, cost of inputs (labour and material) for treating one hectare of farm land ( at 25% slope) is much much lower with Vetiver than Engineering SWC methods. From our experience using Vetiver requires $31 and with engineering $160.
  7. Ecological Benefits: No adverse conditions were/are observed so far by growing the grass with annual or perennial crop. One of the additional benefits identified is minimising the damage of the Wet Lands.


The project is for two years i.e. 1999 - 2000 but with possible extension after appraisal.


The followings are the major areas of concentration:

  1. Creating awareness and popularisation of the programme. This can be effected by organising workshops, training and visits for all concerned bodies. Here are included direct beneficiaries, technical personnel, political and administrative bodies, elders influential people, youths and women. Training will be organised for 150 farmers from thirty peasant associations for 5 days, 30 field workers, for six days and five nursery foremen for three days. As far as possible training will be arranged near the vicinity of the beneficiaries to minimise cost and time.
  2. From past experience, policy makers usually do not involve or take part in any programme unless they see, understand or have been told. In order to avoid this situation, we find it important to organise a two days popularisation work shop for policy and decision makers for better and quick success of the project. 55 people will be invited from offices like zone administration, political offices, Agriculture Depart, and elders, religious leaders women and youth groups. Beside these, visit will be arranged for 90 farmers and 30 field workers to IFSP S/Gonder programme which is 300km and mid way from the two zones.
  3. Direct involvement. There is no need to wait so long for the programme to start after the awareness and popularisation process are completed. Therefore, provided the required conditions are fulfilled, i.e. budget and material are available we will immediately enter into direct implementation. These include establishment of at least two nurseries in each Woreda, transportation of planting materials and selecting five farmers from each woreda to apply the grass on their farm lands.
  4. Preparing reading material for users. The users need information to understand the technology. For this the project will translate available information to users in a local languages in the form of pamphlets for farmers and technical papers for field supervisors and nursery foremen.
  5. Create inter zone cooperation. This will bring together all concerned organisations who are at present involved in land improvement programme. By doing so we can strengthen our effort, share experience and combine investments, increase people participation and responsibility and attract policy makers attention to include the technology at national level.
  6. Recording and documentation: As usual, collection of events with different means and method is one activity. Slides, video cassettes, printed films and others will be arranged to be used during training, visits or workshop, and also as a comparison to see the progress of the project during impact monitoring stages.
  7. Vetiver clubs. Like environmental clubs in the schools, we will try to established Vetiver Clubs in some schools in programme areas. As we know, almost all the students in the rural areas come from farming community. After school hours, holy days and vacations they go back to their respective villages and assist their families in the farming activities. By establishing Vetiver clubs in the schools we can easily and quickly disseminate information via the students to their parents. This can be possible by establishing demonstration ground in the school compounds. This approach has been found effective with other project in the South West part of the country where an NGO called Mensehen Fur Menschen (MIM) is working. At least one school per woreda will be approached to participate in this programme.
  8. Awards, incentives, and field days. Award for best achievements in the form of farm inputs or cash is one mean of creating competition between farmer groups. It can be done either between villages and/ or between farmers in the villages. The farmers who will get the reward need to be selected by the farmers among whom influential; elders and local institution leaders are the members. The awards will be made at farmer development appreciation days. Depending on the availability of resources three to five farmers per zone will be awarded. Special award will also be arranged for best field workers.
  9. Impact monitoring. By the end of year 2000, it will be approximately three year since the grass has been officially introduced in this region. It is usually advisable to conduct an impact monitoring survey in for the project zones, as well as in all zones in the region.
  10. Network News: As part of the programme every three month the network news will be compiled and distributed to all members ,organisations and farmers groups.
  11. The Vetiver Day. Every year in the month of September a day will be celebrated visit a plantation site and programme on a volunteer farmer's field (at a walking distance from main villages) where officials, students and farmers can participate in the planting vetiver hedgerows and by circulating pamphlets, organising video show and quiz competition between zones and arranging special awards for the winner.


  1. As far as possible the project will concentrate in a very few areas and watersheds. Over ambitious programmes will not have impacts at the end, thus should be avoided.
  2. Start with few farmers that are early innovators and who easily understands the technology, usually start with youths.
  3. Use existing GOs or NGOs nurseries to propagate the grass than looking for new once. This enables us to cut costs and time of establishment.
  4. Focus upon the most secured areas first usually the near by farmlands and step wise to outer farms because open grazing by animals will be minimised and result can be observed.
  5. Farmers learn much from what they see and from each other. Targeted farmer to farmer exchanges are useful because of their own trial adaptation results. Establish farmers to farmers net works.
  6. Strengthen the level of collaboration at all level like NGOs, religious organisations, bilateral and multilateral institutions.
  7. Information. Quality extension materials are in short supply. Assuring an adequate distribution of extension material will facilitate the expansion of the technology very smoothly and at faster rate.


At the end of the project years we expect the followings:

  1. The project is just like a simple match stick which once used gives light or energy, but if properly used still continues to give light and energy from one corner to the other.
  2. In the same way the technology will spread by its own from one locality to other without any additional external push .We hope also farmers will start producing enough planting material and share freely their skills to the needy people.
  3. The project effort is not to become substitute for Government programme, it is simply to introduce the technology which the government at present cannot afford to practice due to lack of resource, but later to enable the poor farmers to become powerfull enough to ask and push the government to include the technology in their SWC programmes.


It is well known in all developing countries, in particular here in Ethiopia, that the prominent role of the government for promoting projects is always constrained by limited resources. Thus, as it has been once sponsored by The Vetiver Network to NGOs like MFM and IFSP, this project proposal still asks the kind assistance of The Vetiver Net Work to look for possible funding agency to execute the programme in the planned period.

Activities and Budget

Activity No.Partic. Daysrequired OperationaIDate/yearJuly2l-23/99 Budget (Birr) Responsible body Remarks
Workshop 55 2 July 21 -23 1999 7700.00 coordinator  
Training:- Farmers

- Workers

- Nursery Foremen







July 26-31/99

July 10-17/99J

uly 18-20/99




Visits:- farmers

- workers

- transp. fee



2 buses




July 1-10

July 1-10

July 1-10




Direct implementation


- on farm land

20 Nursery.

50 farmers

60 days

15 days

July -Sep J





Award & others


-Field workers

-Field days









local community

Prepare Manuals Members Yearly September 2500.00 coordinator  
Vetiver Clubs 5 schools Oct. Nov     Coordinator & schools  
Documentation Members any time   1250.00 All members  
Vetiver News Members quarterly   3000.00 Cord./Memb.  
Impact monitor Members 15 days end of 2000 3500.00 Coordinator MoA  
Vetiver day Members a day Sep.   Members and local bodies  
Admin cost Member any time as required 7000.00 Coordinator  
Grand total - - - 107154.0 -  


1) Workshop

There will be 55 people who will participate in the workshop. They will paid Birr 70/day for 2 day (70/day/participant X 55 participant X 2 days) 7700.00 (this includes round trip Transportation cost).

2) Training

-Farmers training. From each peasant association 5 farmers will be selected and stay 5 days in practical training. They will receive an allowance of Birr 30/ day for five days which is Birr = 22500.00

-For Field workers Training .30 field workers will be selected from 10 districts and will stay 6 days in the training .They will be paid an allowance Birr 45/ Day for Six days=8100

-Nursery Foremen 20 nurseries will be established and assisted in the project year, thus 20 foremen will be trained about nursery management for three day. They will receive Birr 45/day =2700.00

3) Visits

Farmers. 90 farmers and 30 field workers will benefit from the visit. They will spend at least three days with farmers for free discussion. Two public buses will be rented at the rate of Birrl 500.00/day /bus for three days = Birr 9000.00 , allowance for farmers will be Birr 30/day / participant X 90 Participant x 3 days = 8100.00 and 30 field workers will be elected with farmers and stay three days like farmers in the field getting Birr 45/day Birr 4050

4) Direct Implementation

Under this title will be included supply of initial planting material for twenty nurseries to plant and cover a quarter of a hectare. Cost for renting a lorry is Birr I 000.00/load. A lorry load can plant a quarter of an hectare. For twenty Nurseries we need to transport 20 lorry loads costing Birr 20000.00 (Renting lorry was the major problem raised in the report of 1998). Beside this five farmers from each district will also be selected and demonstrated the application of the grass on their field. Four lorry load will be available for this activity. This year, we have enough planting materials available for the programme from IFSP and some NGOs nurseries. Thus, except for loading costs plants will be provided free of charge.

5) Awards incentives and Field day. 10 farmers and 10 field workers will be awarded in the month of October or April 1999/2000. Farmers will receive each 100 kg of fertiliser worth Birr 250, and ten workers each a radio worth Birr 125.00.

6) Documentation and Vetiver News

We expect at least 200-250 members of the Net work. Every one is expected to send News about the progress of the programme once in every quarter. This will be screened, compiled and circulated back to the members. For this cost is need for secretariat work, stationery, postage and for other unforeseen costs. Additional materials like Films, Video cassettes ,slides will be purchased and printed and edited.

7) Impact monitoring

The cost allocated is mainly for the consultant fee based on the country's standard. Birr3 50/day for ten days.

8) Administration costs

The costs included in this title are cost to cover telephone, fax and postage bills, cost of printing Network's Logo and Head papers, stationery and allowance and transport fee for, the coordinating bodies when they go out for organising training or workshops.