CONSERVATION MARKETING

For a number of years we have seen an increasing number of small farmers selling vetiver planting as a commodity to other farmers, construction companies, local governments, and to landscapers.  As an example, Roley Noffke of Hydromulch, South Africa, has been a major leader in encouraging small farmers to produce quality plant material as a farm commodity for sale to construction companies. See: https://www.vetiver.org/ETH_WORKSHOP_09/ETH_CD2.pdf
There are many other examples that can be found on TVNI website.  One very interesting fact is that even illiterate farmers, if initially trained and supported, can produce large numbers of high quality vetiver plants (slips) for use on complex engineering works, and as a result can significantly increase their incomes and welfare.

Recently Tessema Awoke wrote a paper titled – Conservation Marketing: The Case of Vetiver Grass Technology (VGT) in Illu Aba Bora Zone. of Ethiopia.  He has coined the phrase “Conservation Marketing” which is appropriate for what is being done. Farmers are using excess vetiver plant material from their on farm soil conservation vetiver hedgerows as a cashable commodity for sale to other farmers and non-farm users (construction companies, landscapers, etc).

Awoke reminds us that VGT can be applied under a wide range of soil and climatic conditions and has many non-farm applications that, in Ethiopia, are not being considered at this time.  We know from experience that adopting soil conservation measures of any type is a slow process, because farmers do not understand or see the immediate benefits.  The principle of “Conservation Marketing” is different, the farmers receive immediate cash benefit from marketing (trading) vetiver grass slips, and for many who have very limited land the most appropriate on farm source of vetiver is by selling part of their soil conservation vetiver hedgerows by dividing them longitudinally (an acceptable practice if done correctly).

Does the off-farm demand for vetiver slips exist?  The good news is that there is a growing realization that VGT has both technical and economic (cost reduction) potential for non-farm applications.  The bad news is that the growth in demand is slow.  We need to increase the awareness of potential non-farm users of vetiver. This can be done at all levels by: influential vetiver using farmers, by NGOs in their interaction with local community leaders and governments, and by major development aid agencies in the design of development programs and projects.

The results will include: wider application of on farm soil and water conservation, and increased multi purpose applications for the non-farm sectors that will result in reduced costs and greater benefits to the community as a whole.

Dick Grimshaw