The Growing Vetiver Movement in Vietnam*

By Ken Crismier

This is a story of earlier plans not being followed in detail, of specific goals not being met — but still, it is a story of purposes being accomplished.

In my wrap-up upon returning from Vietnam in early 1999 (17 February 1999, at <www.>), I wrote, ‘individual initiative is the exception, not the norm. In Vietnam it would be difficult — it is difficult — for a "champion" of vetiver to rise up as has occurred in a number of other countries.’ Well... the exception has seemingly occurred, a champion of vetiver has arisen!

You will also see back then that I wrote ‘there is a risk the work [of the seminars, etc] might be wasted, its energy squandered, if that energy is not soon harnessed to visible, satisfying action.’ Well... with a champion, and others, vetiver as a movement is now ‘happening’ in Vietnam, in 2001! Following are some highlights:

1999: Vetiver was ‘happening’ in Nghe An Province. As related in that earlier report, the Gardeners Association (Hoi Lam Vuon) of Nghe An (with its Chairman, Nguyen Hong Son), was enthusiastic about getting going with vetiver. In April, at Vinh (the province city), they were planting vetiver from the National Institute of Soils and Fertilizers in Hanoi. In June, a team went to Thailand for about 10 days, bringing back on their return a truckload of a dozen varieties for multiplication, to create a new 0.4 ha nursery.

2000:  The year 2000 was mostly spent in discussions, and some planning — I was performing my ‘coordinator’ function — but there was little work with vetiver per se. Most important was that Paul Truong was preparing for his second trip back to Vietnam.

2001:  This year is turning out to be a banner year! First of course there was Paul Truong’s trip in January. Read Paul’s full report of his trip to both Vietnam and Southern China in Vetiverim 17: 8-10. Stemming from that (Paul was invited for the purpose) are significant new efforts from two centers:

Vetiver grass technology is now an officially recognized measure for control of erosion, slippage, and waterway bank collapse, in a ‘Decision’ signed by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development [see below -Ed]. This obviously opens the way for broader application of VS in Vietnam.

And finally, Paul Truong is preparing for yet another trip back — his 3rd — in January, and more good things are bound to come out of that.

Yes, this is turning out to be a banner year!

Vetiver Counters Soil Erosion in Vietnam*

Recently, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam announced a ‘Decision’ with regard to the acceptance of broad-scale application of vetiver grass to protect sloping land against soil erosion. The following article, translated from Vietnamese, has been published in the principal newspapers Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Saigon) and Nhan Dan (The People), and is also shown at <> on the Web site of Vetiver Network Viet Nam.

Vetiver is perennial grass with roots 2-3 m in length, stems 1.5-2 m high, thin erect leaves 40-90 cm long, and 0.4-1 cm wide, with more than ten varieties. The roots of the grass by penetrating deeply enhance its function of countering erosion and collapse, and filtering polluted water in the soil.

The stems form a belt that block flying sand. The roots are fragrant, with distillation yielding 2-3% of a valuable essential oil. The young leaves are fodder for livestock. The roots along with the stems and leaves can be used to make various artistic handicrafts, pulp for paper, and pressed panels.

For ten years now, the National Institute for Soils and Fertilizers has been carrying on experiments using vetiver grass to create hedgerows to protect the soil in cultivation on sloping land in a number of midlands provinces to the North. The Institute of Agricultural Sciences of the South has also researched the adaptability of vetiver and its ability to counter soil erosion in the eastern South. These two research efforts have been evaluated highly by the Science and Technology Council of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development

The ‘Decision’ granting authorization to apply vetiver grass on a large scale opens up many prospects in fighting the collapsing of riverbanks, and of roads in sloping areas. We have learned that almost four months ago, the agricultural chemical and commercial company Thien Sinh and the University of Agriculture and Forestry of Ho Chi Minh City have cooperated in field tests of multiplying vetiver so that later on it can be applied on a broadening scale. The intention is that by July of 2002 there will be 150 hectares of planting material to supply to various places.

Presently, the technology of applying vetiver grass is being experimented with in a number of works in Can Gio district, on National Highway 14. The provinces of Dong Thap and An Giang have established projects to plant vetiver grass against collapse of the banks of waterways.