Amahara Regional State Ethiopia

Report on vetiver Grass Technology Programme

By Alemu Mekonnen




It is approximately two years since the Vetiver grass has been introduced to the Amhara Regional State. Its main introduction was for Soil and Water Conservation (SWC). It has been already reported in April 1998 on how and who took the first initiative for its introduction.

This annual report focuses on three issues: the progress of the technology since the very beginning of its introduction, the achievements for 1998, and the future programme for 1999. It gives emphasis on the extension approaches, problems met during the process of implementation, and future needs for research.



A) Nursery establishment

The plan to assist in the establishment of 20 additional nurseries in the region. In fact 27 nurseries were established by different organisations (GOs, NGOs and bilateral agencies) mainly for soil and water conservation purposes. This will bring up our nursery number from 18 in 1997 to 44 in 1998. The first planting stock was collected from the IFSP and from other projects. Transportation costs for government nurseries were covered by WSP and NGOs and other agencies covered their own costs. Propagation was by vegetative means using root divisions and stem culm cuttings. The project used containerised methods of production and others produced bare rooted plants


Table 1. The number of nurseries established in the Amhara Regional state in the 1998. Every nursery distributes the grass after reserving 10% for the following years propagation.


Zones having the nurseries Number of nurseries Distribution of slips Remarks
South Gonder 21 437723 Three additional
West Gojjam 4 67543 New
East Gojjam 3 10987 New
North Gonder 5 56701 New
South Wollo 2 9087 New
North Showa 2 10986 New
North Wollo 2 32010 New
Awi 5 50132 New
TOTAL 44 675169  


B Training

Training is an important entry points where the promotion of the technology can better be introduced. In this regards depending on the need, 4 to 15 days of training were organised for farmers, field workers of the Government and NGOs and road foremen of Rural Road Authority. In addition, a four day special training course was organised for nursery foremen. Experts from the zone office of agricultural and IFSP participated in the training. The necessary cost for the trainingwas covered by the IFSP.


C) Workshops

Due to time constraint, the regional workshop planned for 1998 was not held. However, on many occasions, the presenter of this report ,Alemu Mekonnen presented papers on the Vetiver Grass Technology at regional training workshops and seminars, including:

  1. Regional Environmental Policy Workshop -- Feb 3-8 1998
  2. Zonal Development Workshop March.—17 - 21 1998
  3. Regional Research Policy Workshop -- April 23 - 27 1998
  4. Eco Farming Training Workshop -- Nov 16 - Oct. 18 1998
  5. Other training sessions within the region

D) Photo Exhibition

Held between 26 - 30 October 1998 was a photo exhibition in the regional capital,

Bairdar in the Tana Hotel for participants who came to prepare the plan of operation for

WSP projects (1999-2001). At this occasion were Bureau, Zone and district heads of

different departments, project beneficiaries, and interested representatives of NGOs.

Most of the pictures and slides presented were taken from the project site

E) Application of the jjrass

The ultimate application of vetiver grass in our case is for Agricultural and

Environmental protection and development programmes. In 1998 the grass was applied for farm land erosion control; rehabilitation of gullies; cut-off drains and waterway stabilisation; road side and land slide control, dam protection; diversion watershed protection and river bank erosion control.

People in the region live primarily from agriculture at high altitudes and low temperature. 92% of the agricultural land lies between the altitude of 2000 and 3000 m. The mean annual temperature ranges correspondingly from 12 to 18 C. The mean annual precipitation of 700-l000 mm is distributed over two seasons (March - April and July - September). In the months of October, December and January night frost occurs that limit and inhibit luxurious growth of the grass.

The region faces serious ecological and economical problems. Incomes are falling as a result of deteriorating soil fertility and increased soil erosion. Smallholder families constitute not only the largest part of the population but the poorest. They are also usually farming under the poorest condition; their fields are mostly on slopes, susceptible to erosion and often have only shallow soils. Sheet erosion is the most common in the project.

In the past, many projects, problem with the assistance of donor agencies (mainly through Food for Work programmes), were launched and implemented to alleviate these problems. The numerous efforts to implement conservation measures have not succeeded. Around 25 SWC techniques were identified mainly mechanical or pure engineering. From the survey conducted in the project area (1992 - 93) one can conclude that of the total kilometres of terraces constructed in the region only 10% remain. Even from what is traced only 1-2 % are properly maintained by farmers. As a result of this poor state of affairs we introduced and implemented The Vetiver Grass Technology in the region. From our experience and knowledge of the grass from other similar projects, we recommend vetiver grass because of its potential advantages in solving the existing problems.

In the 1998 more than 675,000 vetiver clumps were distributed to farmers for different uses. In total, we estimate about 600 ha. farm lands and other land uses were conserved and more than 550-575 farmers benefited. Unlike the previous years, this year there were many women households who participated in the programme. Early planting has shown better survival and effectiveness in trapping sediments even at the early stage of its developments. Our survey on the survival rate inventory indicated 97% for plants produced in the sleeves and 76% for bare-rooted. More over, early planting in both cases encouraged better survival. Planting techniques advised for plants in the sleeves/bags is simply to open small trench, spread the clumps, place the grass and compact the soil firmly. For bare-rooted seedlings division of the clumps in to smaller sized splits is important. In the same way for bare rooted small trench is dug and plants were placed in an orderly way. The Vertical Interval (VI) already in place in the region differ from one slope class to other. General applied VIs are:

3 - 15% slopes = 1 m VI

16 – 25% slopes =1.5m VI

26 –30% slopes = 2m VI

Above 30% + 2.5m VI

Farmers efficiency was also recorded for future planning in order to compare the technology with other physical or biological SWC measures. It was recorded that, an average farmer can easily plant per day up to 225 m running rows of grass hedges on slopes ranging between 5 -15% and 200 m for slopes above 15%. To reduce gaps we advised farmers to apply the 10 cm plant to plant distances. However, a few farmers were observed planting further apart from their own initiatives and interest


Table 3: showing Slope % , VI practised in the region, No and length of hedge rows / ha at different slope classes, and splits required for the length of hedge rows for each slope class

Planting distance is 10 cm and 4-5 splits per spot and 40 splits per linear meter of hedge row. The formula used is S= V/H x 100 (S=Slope,V =vertical interval, and H Horizontal distance)


Slope% VI m No. Hedgerow/ha Length of hedgerows/ha (m) No. Planting slips /ha
3 1 3.02 3.02 12080
5 1 4.54 454 18160
7 1 6.98 698 27920
9 1 8.97 897 35580
11 1 10.94 1094 43760
13 1 12.88 1288 51520
15 1 14.85 1485 59400
17 1.5 11.18 1118 44720
19 1.5 12.45 1245 49800
21 1.5 13.71 1371 54840
23 1.5 14.94 1494 59760
25 1.5 16.18 1618 64720
27 2 14.00 1400 56000
30 2 14.36 1436 57400


From our observations and records we concluded a hectare of nursery when properly handled and managed can produce about 2.2 to 3 million splits of bare rooted vetiver and about 3 million splits from containerised production.

To get these plants ready for use require 5 daily labourers for 5 months (750 labor days) through out the production season. The average daily labourer wage or payment for nursery works in the project area is Birr 4.0O, which is equivalent to USA $ 0.50. Therefore, the total production cost per season is calculated as:

5 PD/Day x $0.50/Day/PD x30 days/month x 5 production months! = $ 375 plus

10% administration, material and transport cost $ 412.00.

(PD= Person Day)


Table 4 shows production cost of splits to treat one hectare of farm land on different slopes and possible area which can be treated with a hectare of nursery

The cost of one split is calculated as $412/ 2,000,000 splits/ha approximately $ 0.000206


slope (%) Hedge rows length /ha Splits/ ha for respective slope (Splits) Cost of splits to cover a ha. of farm land at different
slope (S)
Possible area to be covered from a hectare of nursery. (ha)
3 302 12080   165.56
5 454 18160 3.74 110.13
7 698 27900 5.75 71.63
9 897 35880 7.40 55.74
11 1094 43760 9.01 45.70
13 1288 51520 10.61 38.82
15 1485 59400 12.23 33.67
17 1118 44720 9.21 44.72
19 1245 49800 10.26 40.16
21 1371 54840 11.30 36.47
23 1494 59760 12.30 33.46
25 1618 64720 133.33 30.90
27 1400 56000 11.54 35.71
30 1436 57440 11.82 34.82


Table 5 : labour cost to plant a hectare of farm land with vetiver and total treatment cost including plant production. Labour cost for planting needs additional $0.05 to that of the nursery labour.



Production cost of splits to treat a Ha of farm land PD required for planting in the field/ha.
labour cost to plant a hectare land ($0.55/PD/day) Total costs production of the grass plus planting at field level ($)
3 2.49 1.34 0.737 3.23
5 3.74 2.01 lIoSS 485
7 5.75 3.10 1.705 545
9 7.40 3.98 2.189 959
11 9.01 4.86 2.673 1168
13 10.61 5.72 3.146 1376
15 1223 6.67 3.63 15.86
17 921 5.59 3.074 12.28
19 10.26 6.22 3.63 13.89
21 11 30 6.85 3.767 15.07
23 12.31 7.47 4.109 16.42
25 13.33 8.09 4.449 17.78
27 11.54 7.00 3.85 15.40
30 11.82 7.16 3.936 15.76


2. Rehabilitation of Gullies

Due to poor land management practices in the project area one can observe large areas of land effected by old and new gullies. In order to make these gullies productive and prevent their expansion and development, the vetiver grass technology has been introduced in the project area. The technology was applied to stop erosion at head and floor of gully together with other physical soil conservation measures. Splits were planted with sleeves and pegged to resist the velocity of water coming from upper stream. With technique more than five km of gully lands were rehabilitated

3. Road cuts and drains stabilisation

The project involves the construction and rehabilitation of rural roads as part of its food security program. As the result of poor lay out and design of drainage ditches and river crossings, one can easily observe very large damage to the adjacent crop-land. Besides, road cuts and fills are left untreated after the completion of the project. In order to tackle these problems, the project took the first initiatives to train road foremen and demonstrate the use of Vetiver grass technology for roa side treatment in a very selective areas. Based on this 6 km of R.R on 10 rural roads were protected with this technology.


4 River Bank Protection

There are large number of rivers and streams in the area that damage farmlands during rainy seasons. They damage the land near the banks by scouring underneath or simply taking away the whole parcel. Today, large area of farm land are lost thus exposing farmers to problem. After surveying the whole watershed and knowing its characteristics, the grass was applied together with other engineering SWC measures. Four to five rows of Vetiver grass hedges were planted close together in staggered planting techniques to effectively hold the sediments. The planting techniques for the grass in conterised bags is simply to place the plants, without taking off the containers, and pegging them firmly. For bare rooted plant material the technique is to plant the whole clump (if the splits are few) and for bigger clumps to divide in to appropriate parts and plant them in a well prepared trench. 700 meters of river banks were treated with this system in this year.


5 Water Shed Rehabilitation for Dam side protection

Siltation is a major problem in effective utilisation of dams. This is mainly due to not taking into consideration the protection of watershed that contributes to the dam. As the first demonstration in the region and with assistance of an NGO called Organisation for Relief and Rehabilitation for Development for Amhara Region (ORDA) the grass was applied in protecting the catchment. About 10 ha of the catchment area was covered with this system. Even though it is too early to say a word about its effectiveness in this short period of time, however, still, we observe that it has stopped a considerable amount of silt from coming to the dam. The untreated catchment will be protected 1999.

  1. Other uses of the grass

a) forage

No body can imagine how the grass has helped farmers to feed their cattle during the sever drought seasons where nothing grows except the Vetiver grass hedge rows. The grass is the only plant observed green in the area next to Eucalyptus tree. This particular characteristic of the grass, that is to grow by resisting the moisture stress helped the extension of the grass plantation in the project.

b) Wet land protection

Wet lands are our main source of ground water and are the natural reservoir of streams and rivers. If disturbed they cause considerable damages to habitat and biodiversity.

One major cause of distruction of this ecosystem, identified so far, is the unlimited cutting and exploitation of grass that grows only in this habitat. Farmers in the area usually live in grass huts where the roof is made from thatched grass. The main source of the grass is from the wetlands. Every year in the months of November and December they replace the old grass. This continuous exploitation of the grass resulted in the drying of the wet lands and the minimising of the discharge of streams and rivers having their water source from the wet lands.

Thanks to the introduction the Vetiver grass in the country farmers are nowadays mainly use this grass to build their hut. This contributed largely in gaining both quantitative benefit in term of services and qualitative benefits by conserving the biodiversity of the system. Today, beside the above stated benefits, the downstream people are developing their irrigated agriculture and livestock husbandry without any danger.

c) Income Generation for Schools

In Illubabour, where MfM is working, are established five demonstration grounds near school compounds. The intention of establishing these demo - sites is to teach school boys and girls about modern agriculture and environmental protection activities. One of the activities included is soil conservation with vetiver grass. More than thirty kilometres of Vetiver hedgerows were established. The schools are now seen generating income from the salel of the grass to town dwellers mainly during wedding and seasons of annual feasts. As stated above it is the only grass observed growing green during these main feast seasons (December -March) and without green grass spread on the ground feast days are not considered as happy.

The income collected from this was distributed among the poor students who usually drop out because of financial constraints. Every year the schools collect on an average USA $700-800.

d) Crop. Vetiver and Frost

Crops grown, particular next to the established vetiver hedge rows, are seen having good crop stand without being damaged by frost. Though the grass has no direct impact on the crop quality however, farmers believe that the existence of the grass foliage has protected the crop from being expose to frost. This situation was recorded during our M&E and regular visits to farmers field. Crop failure due to frost is reduced at least by 15%. The condition indirectly encouraged the expansion of the technology.


7 Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E)

It was planned to introduce M&E system for Vetiver grass technology in our country. Based on this, arrangements were made to develop a concept with partner organisations and test the validity of the system in a model area of the project. Standard work norm, specifications and formats for collecting raw and compiled data were also developed, briefing on how and when to use the formats was made to all concerned and the first testing was undertaken in the 3rd quarter of 1998. The forms were prepared in two languages (Amharic and English).The English version will be filled in by higher experts and the Amharic by the Development agents stationed and working with farmers.

It took me 11 days to go to 10 sample districts to introduce the system to concerned bodies.

The overall results will be compiled by myself and will be sent to Vetiver Network at the end of 1st quarter 1999.

Generally this system will give a continuous feedback both on the achievements (qualitative and quantitative) and problems (administrative and technical). Recommendations and suggestions can be included as the format leaves enough space for this.


8) Social proramme


Awards were made to 52 outstanding farmers who performed well in the fiscal year. The award included farm inputs like fertiliser, vegetable seed, and farm handtools. Based on this 12 farmers were awarded each with 100 kg of fertiliser and the rest 42 farmers each received 100 grams of vegetable seeds and one sickle.

This approach has created a healthy and competitive atmosphere between farmers for better handling and use of the grass.



Visits were organised for government staff and farmers within the project area in order to share experience. 14 government staff and 43 farmers participated.

9) The Amhara Region Vetiver Network

After long discussion with the concerned bodies, Amhara Regional Vetiver Network will be in place in April 23 - 26, 1999. Invitation letters were already sent to all organisations who are currently using and planned to use the grass in 1999. IFSP will take the initiatives to organise the meeting and assist the establishment of the Network


10) Problems encountered

Though there were no major problems during the operational year, however, there were some problems as outlined below:

  • Reluctance of some organisations to keep and mange their nurseries to produce the required number of grass lack of polythene tubes (containers) for production
  • Lack of budget for training and field visits. Particularly for government staff
  • Problem of funds to transport grass to new sites outside of our project area, particularly to small NGOs
  • Low temperature and over grazing problems on newly established hedge rows



Plan of operation for 1999

In short the following activities are planned for 1999:


A) Net work establishment

The Amhara region Vetiver Net work will be officially established between April 23-26, 1999 int the presence of Agricultural Bureau head for the region and the concerned invited people in the region (NGOs, GOs, Farmers ,Youths and other influential people). All in all we expect about 37 people to come for the establishment of the Network. Three days are enough to accomplish this task.

It will be held in the regional capital Bairdar. Birr 14000 is required to cover costs like allowances, rent a hall and stationers. We hope the VNT will cover! sponsor this programme.


B) Assisting the establishment of nurseries

In 1999,we will try to provide the grass and technically assist those zones who had requested and applied for assistance last year. Based on this we will provide the grass to 13 nurseries in five zones. Like the previous years the project will try if possible to cover cost of transportation.


C) Training and visits

Our training approach has resulted in accelerated expansion of the technology over a very short period. Thus this year we will also continue the same way to train other zones. 24 agricultural experts from small NGOs and GOs will be offered a 5-7 days training. Additionally, 13 road foremen will also receive 4 days training. Budget for foremen training will be requested from Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). Training cost for experts is not yet secured. Totally we need 12000 Birr for training of 24 experts for 5 days at the rate of 100 Birr per trainee. If we get sponsor for this we will arrange the training end April or early May before the main plantation programme starts.

After the establishment of the Network we are planning to take the whole group to our project area to show our achievement since the introduction of the technology in the region. This will be sponsored by IFSP.


D) Small research programme

Today there are still arguments from some people about the grass effectiveness above certain altitudinal limits. Though we are still using the grass to extreme Agro ecological zones, however, we found it important to test and recommend its best optimal limits for effective uses. Thus I personally want to conduct a small research on different Agro ecology and altitude particularly above 2400 m.a.s.l. If VNT finds for me a funding organisation I will submit my research proposal as soon as I get a reply. The research will be conducted in the High Lands of the region and other zones and will take three years.


E) Big Documentation Programme

Requests are now coming for slides, video and Photos of vetiver grass from many organisations. For this, will try to record all our achievements in Video, Printed Films and Slides for future documentation and training purposes. Costs for this will be requested from NGOs, and others. However, if we are not successful in getting funds we will be forced to ask TVN. Maximum budget for this will be Birr 4500-5000


Included with this report are:


Photo 1 :The project area

Photo2:Vetiver production with sleeves in one of the NGOs Photo3 :Vetiver technology does not limit age Photo4:Vetiver Propagation from culm cuttings PhotoS Preparation for propagation

Photo6: Vetiver ready for planting out into the field, look how big the clumps are Photo7 Vetiver after four weeks of plantation Look how much sediment is deposited (100 % survival, all are produced in sleeves) Altitude 2675mas1

Photo 8,9,10,11: The same programme but different site Altitude 2980mas1 See the soil trapped after five weeks of plantation.

Photo 12,13: Vetiver for stabilisation of soil bunds and faynajuu terraces. Photo 14,15: Vetiver technology is easy to be handled even by children at the village Photo 16,17: Vetiver is Gender sensitive. To day large number of women are participating in the programme.

Photo 18,19:Vetiver and Gully the plants are simply pegged without taking off the sleeves and are planted up steam side.

Photo 20,21: Vetiver for road side drain under score protection supported by sand bags.

Photo 22: Vetiver for river bank protections, big clump are here advised for planting. Photo 23,24: Visitors from other Organisations Alemu Mekonnen, the presenter of this report, at the middle with white shirt.