Haiti – Environmental Stabilization – Think BIG

Unless action is taken on a very large scale it will be virtually impossible to catch up and fix the Haiti’s land denudation problems. The quickest, least cost and most effective way of doing this is to give priority to the technology encompassed by the Vetiver System. A serious program needs to be started now and be sustained for 15 to 20 years. This means policy backing and funding – a lot of funding!

I have been doing some doodling (highly speculative!) as to how much vetiver would be needed to fully protect Haiti and how much it would cost. Here we go:

  • Area of Haiti = 2,775,000 ha (we can discount what does not need protection later)
  • Average of 10 rows of vetiver per ha = 1km per ha or 2.8 million linear km of hedge
  • Number of vetiver slips required = 27.8 billion
  • Area of nurseries each producing 0.5 million slips/ha/annum = 55,000 ha
  • Area if 15 year program envisaged = approx 3,700 ha nursery per annum.
  • Number of nurseries at 0.1 ha/nursery= 37,000 (One nursery for every 75 ha of treated land).

Would take a bit of organizing but not impossible. Revenue per nursery (bare rooted plants) would be in the order of $500 to $1500 per nursery (using farm gate price per slip of 1 to 3 cents per slip – higher price when sold to public infrastructure contractors) – Quite attractive return for a small farmer + bi-products that include forage, fuel and other products. PLUS crop yield increases of up to 50% as farm risks reduced and farmers use more inputs.

A 0.1 ha nursery (2,000 meters of plants) would be manageable using family labor. 37,000 families involved. Increased income could come from producing containerized vetiver plants for infrastructure projects.  Farm families would use their own labor to plant vetiver for on farm protection. (note on very small farms a vetiver hedge planted as a farm boundary hedge would be a good start

Off farm use of vetiver for infrastructure stabilization, rehabilitating degraded lands would be publicly funded and would involve large amounts of labor for land preparation and planting. Say $1.0 per meter or $1,000 per km of linear hedge. 1.8 million kilometers of publicly funded hedgerows would cost $1,800 million or $120 million per year. Still not unreasonable!

If only half the job gets done (focusing on the worst areas that need protection now) the cost would be $60 million per year for 15 years – Very reasonable!!  Of course there are lots of unknowns. However Haiti has the people to do it, the land that needs it, the climate to grow it, and Vetiver already exists in Haiti for more than 200 years.

In my view a program like this is the only way to go, as the Vetiver System is the most effective in both the short and long term, and it is certainly the least cost route that will benefit the most number of Haitians. Remember vetiver is effective and does its job by the end of the first year. Trees will never do the same and will take at least 5 years before they show some use in watershed protection.

Refine please!!

Dick Grimshaw

As a post script, other island nations like Madagascar should consider this approach too.