For those who understand and have witnessed the significant benefits and impact of Vetiver System (VS) applications, are often perplexed that the technology is still unknown by many potential users despite global promotion efforts. Degradation of soil and water is accelerating, due to population growth, misuse and mismanagement of resources, and climate change. Many communities, particularly rural communities in poor countries know the problems but lack the means to mitigate them. The challenge of climate change calls for new approaches in delivering information and in training and empowering communities in need.
VS’ wide spectrum of applications fit well with the needs of most communities for bio-engineering and phytoremedial interventions, often at a fraction of the investment and recurrent cost of traditional technologies.
The core of the Vetiver System (VS) is the Vetiver Grass Technology (VGT) that when applied correctly not only mitigates the targeted problem, but also brings solutions to other associated problems faced by a community. For example VGT applied for on farm soil conservation, is also likely to contain or remove soil contaminates, recharge water tables and associated village springs, wells and ponds, and provide bi-products that can be used for handicraft making, forage, thatch amongst others. To accelerate the acceptance of VS there is a need for a systematic approach to delivering technical information to communities and for the training of community members. VEEP is one such approach.
Vetiver Education and Empowerment Project (VEEP) model developed by Jonathan Barcant (Managing Director of VetiverTT) and his team from Trinidad and Tobago seems to be a model that is getting results and is attractive to end users and their communities, as well as to local and international agencies supporting island nations in the Caribbean.
VEEP goals are that:
- participants have an in-depth understanding about VGT and VS, leading to wider community awareness of VS benefits;
- participants gain hands on experience and capability in vetiver plant propagation, preparation, and installation according to VS best practices;
- VS interventions are initiated and completed at the first set of identified project site;.
- a VS field team is trained and outfitted to move forward with installation and maintenance of all the identified sites; and
- a greater community understanding is created for “green” business opportunities and the identification of basic requirements for VS “green” business development
To reach these VEEP goals for a community and users it is necessary to:
- identify key project implementing partner(s)/individual(s);
- select project participants;
- establish vetiver nurseries;
- create and apply technical project training modules (classroom and field);
- select project sites and apply Vetiver System interventions;
- introduce vetiver handicraft making and handicraft training;
- jointly create educational material (e.g. project brochure) with the local project leaders/NGO;
- produce short educational videos and/or high-quality documentary film; and
- identify green business development and livelihood opportunities.
The above approach was first used in 2016/17 for a hillside community at Paramin (video) in Trinidad and Tobago. The planning and execution was undertaken by Vetiver TT in association with the IAMovement. Since then the VEEP concept has been introduced in other Caribbean Islands including in 2021 a St Lucia (presentation )three bday workshop and Grenada (video) in association with local environmental community focused programs.
Critical to the success of VEEP is the identification of community, national, NGO, and development agency partners who are looking for solutions to environmental problems and have access to support and funding resources. These potential partners need to be identified and alerted to VS as a potential climate smart, solution; and, if interested, encouraged to initiate a VS technical support program based on VEEP. The success of the vetiver programs in the Caribbean have been due to strong partnerships and support by the Inter American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), UNDP GEF Small Grants projects, British High Commission, IWEco, IAMovement, Vetiver TT, House of Vetiver, The Vetiver Network West Indies, University of Florida, and others.
In the south Pacific similar training interventions partnering the Pacific University, UNDP, island governments, NGOs, and TVNI has potential, and has taken off (despite COVID) in Fiji, with a good deal of enthusiasm and success.
Involvement of multiple agencies optimises specialized capabilities and services. For example recently IWEco hosted a webinar that focused on vetiver applications globally and the Caribbean, that not only benefited its Caribbean programs, but show cased the VEEP training strategy and execution to a wider audience. See: Vetiver eco-engineering – plant characteristics and overview of applications worldwide, by Elise Pinners, Director, The Vetiver Network International (TVNI) and The Vetiver Education & Empowerment Project (VEEP) model & the Vetiver System (VS) in the Caribbean, by Jonathan Barcant, Caribbean Coordinator, TVNI
An important goal of VEEP is the development of “green” business enterprises with VGT as the core technology. Thus the inclusion of vetiver handicraft training, that brings immediate benefits to small family enterprises and the women that are responsible for them. Already in Trinidad “The House of Vetiver” has been established to retail the products. Other opportunities exist for the production and sale of vetiver plants for bioengineering and phytoremedial purposes, as well as ornamental plants for landscaping. As demand for plants and VS applications increase, so will the need for specialist expertise in VS planning and application, and VEEP style training. Island governments, at all levels, and development agencies need to be alerted to this potential, both for environmental and economic reasons.