The King of Thailand Vetiver Awards.
The six winners of these awards were announced in early March. Congratulations to the winners from China (Feng Ziyuan and Zhiongxian Lu), Kenya (Edwin Oyaro), Mexico (Antonio Carrillo Bolea), USA (Eric Wiediger), and Vietnam (Ngo Thi Thuy Huong). In addition, 13 Certificate of Excellence were awarded. See award winner details. The abstracts of all 42 submissions for the King Of Thailand Awards can be found here. The full papers will be available on TVNI website after the conference.
“Il Conversatorio Virtual – Vetiver Latino America”
Yorleny Cruz (TVNI Board Member) has initiated an online (Zoom based) discussion forum in Spanish that once a month discusses something of interest relating to the Vetiver System. The recorded discussion is published on TVNI’s YouTube Channel. Thus far three have been held. If anyone is interested in participating, including making a short presentation for the group to discuss, please contact Yorleny.
iNaturalist – The Vetiver System Community Project
We started this project more than two years ago with the purpose of recording the location of known vetiver plantings in various countries of the world. Thus far 718 locations have been added, up from about 400 twelve months ago. Recently Mohammad Shariful Islam who leads the research and promotion of vetiver in Bangladesh added some 67 new sites. So far 72 people have identified vetiver. I encourage others to participate in this vetiver community project. All you have to do is to sign-up to iNaturlist and start posting your vetiver planted sites, or others that you may see when traveling. The more Vetiver sites located the more interesting it is for persons following vetiver activities. If you have a small vetiver project or even just your own plantings you can record the site, add some information and photos about the activity, AND from time to time revisit and upload photos showing the progress of your plantings.
If you have a really interesting vetiver program that meets the eligibility criteria and is scalable you might want to enter this competition, if not this year, but in subsequent years.
Vetiver Bioengineering Standards.
Dr. Mohammad Shariful Islam (Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology) is leading a small group developing minimum design and construction standard criteria applicable for Vetiver when used for bioengineering. The objective is to improve design and bidding related processes. We hope to complete these standards before the end of 2023.
This is a new Facebook group created by Allan Amps, who lives and works in the Davao River Basin on the SE of Mt. Apo — Philippines highest mountain, located on the Island of Mindanao. The purpose of the group is to: (1) share information about the soil and water problems on Mt. Apo – they truly are a problem; and (2) promote and share experiences in the introduction of the Vetiver System to the Mt. Apo region for soil and water conservation and regenerative agriculture. Allan has a farm and vetiver nursery on Mt Apo, he also is a recipient of the annual downstream flooding that occurs in the lowlands partly due to the unprotected upland farms and the deforestation that has been occurring in the upper watersheds. Allan is committed to creating change, and has already brought into his group others with similar aspirations. This is a group that should be worth joining and following. Allan is a great photographer and communicator, as are some of the other members. Vetiver should grow very well in this region – success will depend on how it is applied, and the economic benefits that it will bring. Allan is also very tech savvy, and I am hoping that over time will bring some new ideas and techniques for monitoring progress. We wish the group good luck in its work.
REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE WITH VETIVER
When John Greenfield introduced the Vetiver Grass hedgerows to World Bank financed watershed programs in India during the 1980s the objective was to bring to farming communities a low cost and effective system of soil conservation. Since those days much of the focus of vetiver has been on applications for infrastructure stabilization and pollution control – undoubtedly successful, useful, and profitable. However it is important that we make greater efforts to introduce vetiver as a tool for soil conservation and regenerative agriculture to millions of small farmers (and larger ones too) who need it. These farms face declining soil fertility and soil health, continuing erosion, and very soon many will likely be extremely short of water. Vetiver is one of the tools that can mitigate these problems.
Over the past few years our permaculture friends have been using vetiver as part of their organic cultivation practices, amongst whom the Vietnam Vetiver Farmers Group has been sharing some very interesting experiences in embedding the Vetiver System into a ,wide range of farm practices, with a prime objective of increasing soil organic matter (SOM) and related soil micro fauna/flora activity, and reducing the applications of fertilizer and pesticides. Farmers are leading the way in showing how vetiver can provide direct short term benefits apart from traditional soil conservation applications, making VS much more interesting to farm users. I have also been following the food forest development in India at Samar Shail Natural Farms Ramnagar and Caleb Omolo’s food forest and regenerative agriculture aactivities in Kenya, where on both cases vetiver plays a key and critical role in the process.
In November 2022, I was checking to see what long time vetiver advocate Caleb Omolo (Kenya) was doing with vetiver and came across this video of his food forest at Rongo in Kisi County. Knowing Caleb’s enthusiasm for vetiver I contacted him about his future plans and he told me that he and Christian Makokha (who posts frequently about his vetiver work in Kenya) wanted to extend their “regenerative agriculture with vetiver”: (RAV) practices to other parts of western Kenya, particularly to very small and poor farmers in Siaya County near Lake Victoria, starting with the village of Lela. I suggested that Caleb put a proposal together; and by the end of the year we had donor funds to support the project (known as SCRAPP) comprising a 1 + acre demo farm plus a vetiver nursery and funds for a week’s training course for 35 participants (nearly all widows who had lost their husbands to AIDS). By the end of February the women had been trained, and the demo farm and nursery had been established. The trainees who have farms within a 2 km radius of the demo farm will return to the demo farm once a week for additional training and updates; at the same time they will be starting RAV practices on their own farms. Caleb and Christian will help design all 35 participant farms. A local member of the community, Pauline Saris (a graduate), has volunteered to work with the group after Caleb and Christian move on to other programs at the end of 2023. We will update readers of this newsletter as the Lela project progresses.
The donor funds also enabled us to provide support to four other leaders of Kenya’s vetiver movement –
Jane Wegesa Fraser (Kenya’s Vetiver Network Coordinator, environmental activist and vetiver business woman) will be responsible for introducing RAV and a vetiver nursery at a farm demonstration site at the Kanyerus Peace Border school, West Pokot County. The central focus is to educate the community to practice appropriate farming systems for drylands to maximize yield, soil and water conservation, reduce runoff, harvest water and biomass as a resource for energy, create a food forest, restore gullies, improve and increase pastures.
Paul Kombo (probably Kenya’s first vetiver farmer and businessman) will be responsible for establishing a demonstration site for applying VGT correctly to protect, stabilize, and prevent siltation of an irrigation water supply pond (in a low rainfall area of Kenya) located at Mbololo Ward, Voi Sub-country Taita Taveta County.
Samuel Teimuge (farmer, environmental advisor, and community leader) will be responsible for applying VGT to protect and stabilize a dam embankment and to prevent the inflow of silt during rainy season. He will also plant vetiver along a selected gully to stop further erosion. The site located in the Kerio Valley, Elgeyo Marakwet County, and will demonstrate RAV practices including the use of vetiver for crop pest control. He will train community members, especially the Konyasoy members, on VGT application.
Peter Kingori (farmer and Trees of the World trainer) will be responsible for VGT promotion in Homa Bay County using a demonstration site to showcase stabilization of farm drainage channels typically found in the flood prone areas of Homa Bay county. RAV practices will be introduced on the identified farms. Vetiver plants will be supplied, and the process will be monitored. He will train community members on VGT/RAV applications. Peter is also the East African Chief Training Officer for Trees of the World and will introduce RAV into that program.
Caleb Omolo and Christian Makokha of Sustainable Village Resources, who under SCRAPP focus on RAV and VGT farm practices with responsibility to provide technical support to the initial 35 trainees, will as part of SCRAPP develop guidelines, training modules, and promotional aids for embedding VGT and RAV into farming communities.
These 6 persons have come together UMOJA NA VETIVER INITIATIVE (UNVI) (Unity with Vetiver Initiative) with the objective of establishing a “platform” for an association of very experience vetiver users that can be used for future upscaling of RAV and other VS applications.
Organizations working with farmers in Eastern Africa who want to know more about the Vetiver System and who want to include vetiver in their technology packages should involve expertise from the UNVI group (you could not find better and more experienced people) as resource persons for training purposes should initially contact Jane Wegesa via Whats app contact “UNVI” or via “Messenger”.
Apart from TVNI’s support for SCRAPP and UNVI we want to use this initiative to demonstrate that with minimum funding it is quite feasible for experienced vetiver users to set up and manage vetiver service business based programs within their communities, and that there is a significant advantage from working together in support of longer term country objectives. Given the opportunity they should be able to do as well or better than other larger organizations. We think that by taking a “Vetiver Service Business” (VSB) approach there should be an opportunity to provide a range of on farm vetiver services including: plant material, on site applications, design and survey work, training (workshops and onsite), and ongoing “advisory services” to farmers and their communities. Farmers and communities would pay for the services. Apart from farm focused services, the VSB would, where appropriate, be able to also service non-farm vetiver applications.
There are many thousands of capable vetiver users in various tropical countries who could, if given a bit of initial support and opportunity, easily establish a VSB and get quickly into action at minimum cost. For that matter some of the existing non agricultural vetiver businesses might consider hiring a couple of young vetiver technicians who could extend, at virtually no increased overhead cost, vetiver applications to farmers. Something to think about!
Russell Jardiolin is a serious vetiver contractor in the Philippines and has been posting his work on Facebook for many years now. He has planted many thousands of square meters of vetiver for slope stabilization relating to infrastructure. This image shows a mature vetiver planting on Lahar white sand. Russell has always applied vetiver correctly and as a result has quality results. This link shows some of his other work including nursery development, and the supply of vetiver plants from small contract vetiver propagators.
Peter Pitcher from Australia’s Norther Territory is a farmer, businessman, and environmental consultant. He is also an administrator of our Network Facebook group. His Facebook posts are always interesting and provide for lively discussion. Recently he did some work at Litchfield Tourist Park (a jumping off spot for the Litchfield National Park – south of Darwin). His company installed a wastewater treatment system (700 vetiver plants processing 7,800 liters of domestic wastewater per day). We will look forward to feedback in a years’ time as to the success of this project.
Ngo Duc Tho is the leader of the Vietnam Vetiver Farmers Group and one of TVNI’s Agricultural Advisors. He graduated as an irrigation engineer, is a certified organic agricultural consultant, and is completing a Master’s thesis on Climate Change. Vetiver was planted under his supervision to stabilize a river flood embankment at Pho Yen located north of Hanoi.
Yorleny Cruz Chaves is the Vetiver Coordinator for Costa Rica and a Board member of TVNI. She is an engineer and has been involved with the application and promotion of vetiver for 20 years. Most of her work with vetiver is with slope stabilization, water, and ornamental landscaping. She posts about vetiver regularly on Facebook
Amongst her many vetiver applications she has used vetiver in various pollution control micro project configurations that combine rainwater gardens with ornamental landscapes
VETIVER’S SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER PLANTS
Embedding vetiver deeply into farming practices means vetiver and crops getting “close to each other”! Our vetiver social media groups are discussing this more frequently, and I thought it might be of interest to publish an exchange by the late Criss Juliard (when working in Morocco and Senegal) and Doug Richardson who is a nurseryman and landscaper near Santa Barbara, California reflecting on the positive association of vetiver and bananas. Their observations are very relevant when we are looking for technologies to deal with erratic weather, drought and declining soil health.
“Hello Doug. ….. Vetiver is used to surround banana plantations along the coast in Morocco as a wind break; in Senegal, we worked on an erosion protection trial in a banana plantation by planting ½ ha of banana’s with vetiver hedgerows following the contour and next to it, ½ ha without; both were on a slight 3º slope. Surprisingly, we found the banana trees produced ripe bunches about 4-6 weeks earlier in the vetiver plot than the no-vetiver plot. We concluded non-scientifically that the vetiver hedgerows allowed for great moisture retention and a steadier availability of moisture to the plant; strategic conditions for better growth and yield. Neither plot had drip irrigation, but both received the same amount of gravity-fed watering.
In another experience in Senegal (it was non-scientific because it was by chance), a plant pathologist friend planted vetiver that I had given him near some of his banana trees. He was surprised to see the banana trees’ growth and development near the vetiver was superior to those further away from vetiver (even though he did not water the vetiver). He dug a small trench around one of the banana trees to look at the banana roots and found its root system decidedly turned towards the vetiver, concluding a symbiotic relation developed between the two plants, and that perhaps vetiver roots were better at dosing water than his banana watering regime…….
All the best, Criss Juliard”
Dear Criss. Thanks so much for your information about Vetiver and bananas. I delayed responding to you in the hope I would be able to obtain some photo images of a banana/vetiver planting I did here in California in 1999. I will get them and send them to you, but for now I can say that bananas and vetiver do work very well together here. However , vetiver’s beneficial influence was not limited to bananas alone. Along with the bananas I planted dozens of other subtropical fruit trees which are considered as marginal specialty crops in our area. Almost without exception their growth exceeded our expectations. I agree with you that vetiver greatly improves the moisture regime for the plants in its vicinity but I suspect that an equally powerful factor is the microbiological activity in the rhizosphere of the vetiver and its attendant impact on the nutritional status and vigor of nearby plants. Vetiver’s potential as a nurse crop has been touted in the literature and my experience supports that perspective. The windbreak aspect that you mentioned is also a strong contributing factor to strong rapid development of plants growing with Vetiver. Here in California I have tried both drip irrigation and microjets with bananas. Both produced acceptable results. Some of the literature suggests that drip is preferable to sprays in the subtropics because it doesn’t wet and cool the bananas pseudo stems in our heat deficient environment. However, the sprays provide more humidity. I need more time with a new planting to discern. I look forward to discussing this more with you. Thanks, Doug
In planta biocontrol of soilborne Fusarium wilt of banana through a plant endophytic bacterium, Burkholderia cenocepacia 869T2.
This paper by Ying-Ning Ho et al of the National Taiwan Ocean University addresses the use of beneficial endophytic bacterial strains against Fusarium wilt (Panama disease of bananas). Here are some quotations from this interesting paper
“….. although the banana has long been one of the most important global crops (ranked fourth in importance) based on the total value of production, Fusarium wilt (Panama disease), which is caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense tropical race 4 (Foc TR4), has become the most lethal disease of banana and threatens both the quality and quantity of banana production. The Foc TR4 has severely affected the stable production of the banana industries in Australia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, and Taiwan ….. An endophytic bacterium Burkholderia cenocepacia 869T2 from vetiver that showed high ability to inhibit Foc TR4 mycelia could decrease the incidence of Fusarium wilt disease and promote banana plant growth …. The results showed that the incidence of Fusarium wilt on 869T2 inoculated banana plantlets was only 3.4 % in the severely infested field by Foc TR4 7 months later, compared to 24.5 % in the control treatment. The height and girth of the inoculated banana plants were significantly taller and wider compared to the those of the control plants ….”
I wonder if we have a link between the findings of Ying-Ning and his team and the above conversation between Criss and Doug. Is it possible that there might be an in-field rhizosphere link between vetiver and bananas?? Those of you who grow vetiver and bananas (that are grown in Fusarium wilt infected soil) might try a simple observational experiment comparing three non-infected banana plantlets planted on the infected soil – one plant being the control, another ringed by vetiver, and the third inoculated by soaking for a few days in a slurry of mashed up vetiver roots. Worth a try??
SOIL ORGANIC CARBON
Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) is a hot topic and not always fully understood. This article — Soil Carbon Storage — by: Todd A. Ontl (Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa State University, Ames, IA) & Lisa A. Schulte (Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa State University, Ames, IA) is I think quite helpful and is a useful read.
EAST BALI POVERTY PROJECT
The East Bali Poverty Project that provides support to once impoverished families on the slopes of Mt Agung has been in business for over 20 years. Vetiver System applications were critical to its initial development and success. We tend to forget that in many instances, when looking for solutions, that “It has all been done before”.
Currently there is growing interest in vetiver applications amongst island nations in the tropics, particularly in the south and western Pacific. Many of the islands are of volcanic nature, they not only face volcanic eruptions but also, with increasing population pressure on the land and more extreme weather conditions, have to deal with erosion and soil deterioration on steep volcanic slopes. The East Bali Poverty Project is one such program where vetiver played an essential role. see: Proceedings/INR_poverty.pdf https://www.vetiver.org/INDO-techex.pdf https://www.vetiver.org/INR_East%20Bali%202006.pdf
This video, produced by Sarah Matthews of Saffyshine Production in conjunction with the Brock Initiative and East Bali Poverty Project, is a training video that shows how the Vetiver System is a vital component of the East Bali Poverty Project and how it has had an impact on children and their families. The video (32 mins) includes animations, film and narration by people intimately connected to the project. The narration is in Indonesian with English subtitles.
PILOT ONLINE VETIVER HANDICRAFT COURSE — MAKING A CHICKEN BASKET
During March, Oswaldo Luque and Marbella Rivas organized two 2 hour training sessions to test the possibility of developing a future comprehensive vetiver handicrafts training course. Marbella Rivas, who I first met at ICV4 (Venezuela), is a master vetiver handicrafter, demonstrated how to make the chicken basket shown in this photo. The two sessions were both interesting and useful. We will now review and discuss further opportunities to expand and improve nits format for future vetiver online training courses. One important aspect is that it really is a very good “show and tell” experience and that non Spanish speakers can understand practically everything that was demonstrated.