The Vetiver System – Summary

The Vetiver System

The Vetiver System (VS) is dependent on the use of a very unique tropical plant, Vetiver grass – Vetiveria zizanioiodes. The grass can be grown over a very wide range of climatic and soil conditions, and if planted correctly can be used virtually anywhere under tropical, semi-tropical, and Mediterranean climates. It has characteristics that in totality are unique to a single species. When vetiver grass is grown in the form of a narrow self-sustaining hedgerow it exhibits special characteristics that are essential to the many different applications that comprise the Vetiver System.

The species of Chrysopogon zizanioides, that is promoted in nearly 100 countries for VS applications originates in south India, is sterile, non invasive and has to be propagated by clump subdivision. Generally nursery multiplication of bare rooted plants is the preferred method. The average multiplication rate varies but is normally about 1:30.

After about three months nursery clumps are divided into planting slips of about 3 tillers each. These are then planted 15 cm apart on the contour to create, when mature, a barrier of stiff grass that acts as a buffer and spreader of down slope water flow, and a filter to sediment. A good hedge will reduce rainfall run off by as much as 70% and sediment by as much as 90%. A hedgerow will stay where it is planted and the sediment that is spread out behind the hedgerow gradually accumulates to form a long lasting terrace with vetiver protection. It is a very low cost, labor intensive technology (linked to the cost of labor) with very high benefit: cost ratios). When used for civil works protection its cost is about 1/20 of traditional engineered systems and designs.

Vetiver grass can be used directly as a farm income product, or it can be used as an application that will protect river basins and watersheds against environmental damage particularly point source environmental problems relating to: (1) sediment flows (2) excess nutrients, heavy metals and pesticides in leachates from toxic sources. The two major uses are closely linked. Below are the main categories of application – each is linked to a group of photos demonstrating its application. All these applications can directly or indirectly impact on the rural poor through either protection of farm land and, where necessary its rehabilitation, provision of direct farm income, or indirectly improving the quality of life and resources available to the poor.

There are three questions that are always asked by agriculturists: (1) Does vetiver make a good fodder? The answer, supported by research, is yes, if cut and managed correctly. It also makes a good maintenance ration in the dry season when most other forage plants have either died or become unpalatable; (2) does it cause erosion problems when dug up for its roots? In our experience over the past 20 years this has never been a problem when framers are properly trained on its use. There have been cases in Haitii; and (3) is the plant invasive? The plant which is used in most countries has its origin in south India, andeither does not flower, or when it does its seeds are sterile. Its roots are not stoloniferous. It is not therefore invasive

Vetiver Systems can be used by most of the sectors involved in rural and community development. It should not just be left solely to the agricultural sector to promote, but should be incorporated, where appropriate, into the development plans for community, district or region. If all the sectors use it, there is then an opportunity for vetiver grass producers, both small and big to get involved with VS as an income generating enterprise, whether it be producing planting material, contracting as landscapers for slope stabilization and other needs, or selling vetiver byproducts such as handicrafts, mulch, thatch, forage and other material. Over and above this, of course is its use in on farm soil and water conservation, and the benefits that are derived from that application.

It is a technology common to so many different applications that if widely applied might be the kick start to a significant climb out of poverty for a large segment of the community.

Vetiver System and Its Applications can be found at: (short power point type presenations) and on our web site library at:

Vetiver System – An Overview
Vetiver System – The Plant
Vetiver System – Propagation and Planting

Vetiver System – Poverty Alleviation

Agricultural applications:
Soil and Water Conservation
On Farm Use and Products

Water and Water Quality applications
Flood Control
River Banks
Dams, Ponds and Lakes
Flash Flood Erosion Control and Sea Dykes
Mine and Quarry Rehabilitation
Effluent Disposal

Constructed Slope Stabilization applications
Rural Roads
Highways – batter/ fill and drainage
Land Rehabilitation
Pipeline and electricity utilities

Urban Landscaping

Other uses – handicrafts, aromatic oils, medicinal etc.

TVN(I) Website: