Haiti – Agriculture – Production and Disaster Mitigation

Here is another blog that focuses on Haiti. Unfortunately one can guarantee that there will be future disasters in Haiti – hopefully not from another earthquake – but from major/extreme rainfall events. Each time there is such an event more soil fertility will be lost and some farms will be lost altogether. Other damage including land slides and downstream flooding and sediment deposition will be costly to life and the economy. A major effort over say the next 10-15 years must be made to mitigate these problems, and at the same time raise on farm productivity. A daunting task, but not impossible if the Vetiver System is used as a priority tool.
Below are some vetiver related photographs from western Ethiopia (rainfall 1400 mm) that show what could be achieved in Haiti:
The histogram is not very easy to read. It is divided into three sections (left – bare land, center -vetiver on bare land, right – vetiver with coffee): blue – year 1; red – year 2; yellow – year 3. Left section on the left it shows rainfall runoff from 226 mm/ha t0 139 mm/ha, on right soil loss 200 tons per ha to 140 tons per ha. Center section with vetiver on bare land % run off reduction 29% to 74% and soil loss from 125 tons to 7 tons/ha. Right section – vetiver with coffee run off reduction 26 (year 1) to 88% (year 3), and soil loss reduction from 86 (year 1) to 4 tons per ha, in the third year. VETIVER HEDGES BECOME MORE EFFICIENT WITH AGE AS THE HEDGEROW THICKENS. Similar results are found in other countries and continents. Details of this research is at: https://www.vetiver.org/ETH_WORKSHOP_09/ETH_A7.pdf
Farmers who have 10 year old hedgerows indicate that rainfall runoff has been absolutely minimized and therefore soil loss is also minimized.
The last image shows the impact of on-farm vetiver hedgerows on improved ground water, stream and spring flow.
I believe vetiver grass hedgerows are essential for good agriculture production in Haiti. Vetiver works well with virtually any perennial crops. There are many unexplainable reasons for this, but the most likely are: (1) improved soil moisture both in top soil and at depth (2) use of vetiver leaves as mulch for fruit trees. Vetiver recycles nutrients from depth through associated fungal root mycorrhiza; also improves soil organic matter significantly (Chinese research) (3) reduced eel worm incidence – this impacts very positively on bananas. I have seen the same with citrus, mango and other tree crops, particularly in the early years of tree crop establishment vetiver provides good benefits.
In China, Thailand, Venezuela, and Haiti and many other countries vetiver protected farms have positive impact on vegetables and other annual crops. Crop yield increases of 50% are regularly reported from Ethiopia. Vetiver has a positive impact on insects – providing habitat for beneficial insects, such as parasitic wasps, and as a host plant for stem borer – significantly reducing the pest damage to maize without harming the vetiver. See: https://www.vetiver.org/ETH_WORKSHOP_09/ETH_A3.pdf
Vetiver has been reported from Ethiopia to improve red pepper production through reducing eel worm incidence, and 150 years ago vetiver mulch on cabbages and strawberries reduced white fly damage.
If vetiver hedgerows are regularly cut (every 4-6 weeks) the forage value is quite good, and under Haiti’s climatic conditions could give high yields.
Farmers with vetiver hedgerows can longitudinally split the hedgerows, to sell plant material to other farmers or to public works contractors, without effecting the efficiency of the hedge that remains.
Vetiver can also be grown for its oil, IF its is planted as a “crop” and protected by permanent vetiver hedgerows.
To achieve such impacts and benefits communities must be made aware of what the plant and the Vetiver System can achieve if properly managed. A well managed vetiver hedgerow will be of far greater value to the economy and the environment than its general current use in Haiti as an aromatic oil.