Vetiver System – In their own words

Back in 1996 The Vetiver Network made a grant to Munchen fur Munchen (a German NGO working in Mettu, western Ethiopia, to support and expand its vetiver based soil conservation program. Twelve years later:

From Debela Dinka – Sustainable Land Use Forum, Ethiopia. According to our partner NGO in Illubabor, Ethio-Wetlands and Natural Resource Association (EWNRA), vetiver technology is more or less being used in 17 districts of 22 in Illubabor Province. It is estimated that about 17,000 households are using vetiver. It is expected that the remaining 5 districts will be involved. The major impacts of vetiver are: decreased rate of soil erosion; increased crop (maize sorghum, vegetables) yield – as much as 50% – due to soil and water conservation; reduced siltation of wetlands and streams; groundwater recharge which subsequently improved flow of springs, streams and wetlands; survival rate of tree; coffee seedlings reached more than 80%. Other uses of vetiver: mulching in coffee plantations; thatching of houses, stores; shades (vetiver grass gives long time service); mattress making (it repels home fleas and other insects); homestead hedgerows for beautification; making rope; income generation (farmers sell vetiver clumps for planting materials); and the green leaves of vetiver are cut and spread in and around homes during holidays and social gatherings such as wedding ceremonies.

In 2001 Paul Truong (Australia) visited his country of birth, Vietnam, and introduced the Vetiver System to his former colleagues.

From Tran Tan Van – Vietnam“Vietnam, like most countries, suffers natural disasters and environmental degradation. The threat from future rising sea levels puts Vietnam in the top five most endangered nations. Yearly 1000 people die during storms; as a result of toxic pollution of waterways, yearly average property damage is $300,000,000. The government understands the need to mitigate these effects but has resorted to using piecemeal, conventional engineering works. These are very expensive, technically complicated and are not durable. TVNI’s introduction of VS into Vietnam 7 years ago was for Vietnam “a timely glass of fresh water to the thirsty desert traveler”. It has been tested, demonstrated and adopted by the government, the research community, the private sector and individuals. The speed of its adoption over large landscapes attests that it is indeed the solution to myriad problems. Vietnam represents one of the world’s most successful cases of VS use”.

In 2005 TVNI started working with Sally Holker – she wanted to integrate vetiver into some of her weaving projects. We funded the training of two Indian textile experts in Thai handicraft training – Sally also used vetiver on her farm land.

From Sally Holker – Women Weave of India “I planted vetiver three monsoons ago on my eleven acres of land (Central India, on the banks of the Narbada River, near Maheshwar). The original idea was to arrest the erosion of my very unstable terrain, which slopes at a twenty degree angle from the north (top) down to the river (south) and was slowly washing the whole story away. That has completely reversed itself now. The vetiver has been a miracle and has multiplied many times over. Not only is the land stable, but also we have been able to use the leaf of these plants very effectively in a project close to my heart. For thirty years I have been committed to increasing rural employment for women in our area through handloom weaving. Most of the area weaves cotton and silk. We are now weaving vetiver leaf; making and selling beautiful table mats and runners.”

Don Miller of New Zealand has been using vetiver in Vanuatu for over 10 years for soil and water conservation purposes. In a recent account of his work at Fort Patrick he shows how vetiver hedgerows, followed by tree planting has significantly reduced, sediment flows to nearby coral reefs. Learn More at:

From Thomas J. Goreau, PhD. President, Global Coral Reef Alliance. It is a pleasure to attach this brilliant study by Don Miller, a soil restoration ecologist working in Vanuatu. He has definitively shown how the most severe erosion can be stopped cold, with enormous benefits for both terrestrial productivity and by stopping the mud that was killing the coral reefs and fisheries. The local fishermen tell him that since this project, the waters are clearing and the corals and fish coming back. We are very eager to see his incredible results greatly expanded and applied in so many more places where they are needed, and to work closely with Don to replicate his efforts elsewhere. I propose that he be fully involved in all of the many restoration projects all of our groups are proposing in high islands, and to see his study included in the volumes we are working on. In particular it should be noted that these results were achieved by simple planting, and that even better results might be expected if his methods were combined with use of char and vermiculture. Combining his methods with other methods of enhancing soil fertility should be proposed wherever feasible in the programs we are trying to seek funding for implementing in small island developing states and elsewhere.

Roley Nöffke Managing Director of Hydromuch (South Africa) has done much to promote the use of the Vetiver System for the stabilization of highway related slopes. In a recent article relating to the Ilmenite Project in Madagascar, vetiver was used on large scale for the protection of wind blown sand highway slopes. The full article by Carol Knoll and Roley Nöffke can be found at: An important component was the Community based Vetiver propagation program described below. TVNI see the opportunities for local farmers to produce vetiver plant material for infrastructure stabilization as an important component in the Vetiver System and a very important and rewarding cash crop for farmers. Imamagine what could be done in Haiti and any other disaster impacted countries.

From Carol Knoll and Roley Nöffke. “Community based Vetiver propagation program It was estimated that the erosion control and vegetation reinstatement program as a whole would require about two million Vetiver plants and Hydromulch, in conjunction with QMM Environmental, initiated a Vetiver sourcing and growing program utilizing family groups in neighboring communities. Nöffke commented that fifteen communities were approached initially during December2006 and this had expanded to 35 by August 2008.

…. Some of the families involved in the project sourced parent material from their farming locations close to the rehabilitation sites and were paid for the material, while others were given slips of the parent material to grow on in community nurseries of their own making. Hydromulch briefed the villagers on the correct cropping and trimming procedures and demonstrated sustainable harvesting methods – removing material without damaging the parent plant. They were also encouraged to identify and collect viable strong material and often traveled great distances to source suitable material. Potting bags and Vetiver planting material in the form of slips were delivered to the communities that had chosen the propagation route. The growers filled the bags with a suitable growing medium and planted the slips. Open ground nurseries were also encouraged, so that the growers could establish a stock for future demand. Along with the potting bags, the growers received fertiliser sticks, spades, rakes, plastic watering cans and wheelbarrows. The families were paid for the initial planting process, with a second payment being made once the plants were satisfactorily established with well-developed root systems. According to Nöffke, establishment takes between three and six weeks during which time regular watering is needed.

The communities selected for the propagation process were close to reliable water sources. Some communities are involved in the post-establishment maintenance of the plants and are being paid accordingly. Once established, the plants were collected by Hydromulch ready for planting out into the harsh roadside environment. The communities or families in the various villages are subsistence farmers that grow mainly rice, while those on the coast are fishermen.

In the MangaikyVillage, ‘Andre’s community’ has propagated over 230,000 Vetiver plants to date and, in the same village, the Auguste family has propagated in excess of 250,000 plants. In the Mangarivotra Village, the ‘Antahova Community’ will soon reach their target of 80,000 plants, while Maria Agnes’s family from the Mandromdromotra Village has grown 100 000 plants. These are some of the 35 groups involved in this program, supplying the on-site holding nursery with stock. A total of in excess of two million Vetiver plants has been used for erosion control on the project.

The community based program has already generated in excess of US$ 150,000 for the respective communities, during the construction phase of the Ilmenite Project. The local farmers have invested their returns in buildings and stock. Farmer Auguste built a large robust house with the income his family received, while Madame Marie Agnes built a secure house for herself and her grandchildren from the income generated through Vetiver propagation. Andre David Mahalogny from the Mangaiky district bought six Zebu cattle with the proceeds generated by his family’s Vetiver nursery. With the money he earned, Farmer Arthur carried out the traditional restitution ceremony at his father’s grave, while Farmer ‘Jonesey’ is educating his children with the payment received for the 240 000 Vetiver plants grown by his family.”

Apart from the above you can learn about a lot of new developments at TVNI’s website – . We have redesigned the website to make it easy to access specific topics. We have published five new manuals relating to the Vetiver System. One has already been translated into Mandarin, Swahili and Vietnamese. We hope to soon have French, Spanish and Portuguese translations. These are or will be downloadable from the internet or can be purchased from We had a very successful vetiver workshop in India earlier this year, and are planning a similar one in Ethiopia next year.

What ever your views might be about the Vetiver System there is a desperate need to mitigate soil and water related problems and to renew and protect our natural resources – one of the quickest, cheapest and most effective ways is through the application of the Vetiver System.

Dick Grimshaw
Bellingham October 23 2008