When I first started my professional career as a conservationist and agriculturist in Zambia in the early 1960’s soil erosion was a major problem. Nearly 50 years later world wide erosion is worse. When I worked in Ethiopia 40 years ago highway maintenance cost was very high due to bad drainage and erosion – still a major and worsening problem in most developing countries. When I worked in Nigeria 30 years ago the formation of massive gullies in eastern Nigeria were so bad that houses would be engulfed, today its worse. When I worked in India 20 years ago ground water was being depleted through irrigation and minimum recharge, its even worse today. In the past 10 years water supplies have have become contaminated by agricultural and industrial waste throughout Asia, and results in serious health problems. Because of climate change and global temperature changes weather has become more violent, resulting in more frequent and serious storm related disasters.

What is the world doing about all this – VERY LITTLE! and WHY? – politics, cost, enormous scale of the problem, wrong technologies, agenda conflicts, and APATHY and LACK of COURAGE AND LEADERSHIP. If ACTION is not undertaken on a wide scale a lot of people will overtime cease to exist and our natural resources will be destroyed. The CHALLENGE is to do something and to do it SOON.

To achieve quick results simultaneously in many locations requires community involvement and the use of relatively simple technology that can be applied at micro scale. There are very few technologies that can meet this challenge, but the VETIVER SYSTEM (VS) is one that can. It would be easy to train community leaders in VS fundamentals (all the work is documented and is available and in public domain), vetiver plant material can be quickly and easily propagated at many locations, and the people, with some fairly low technical support, can identify key locations, where priority can be given to VS application.

I give just one example. A few weeks ago on this blog I described how erosion sediment had destroyed inshore fisheries and coral reefs in Vanuatu, and how VS had been used to stabilize and allow reforestation to take place, stopping sediment flows and allowing recovery of reef and fisheries. This is just one of probably thousands of sites that need fixing. One every 10 years will not get us very far! In the Caribbean each time a tropical storm hits an islands tons of sediment end up in the sea, personal property is destroyed, and effluent from leaking septic systems and other point source contaminate sites (mines, industrial sites) is washed on to beaches and into the sea.

Most of this could be fixed. On micro-scale septic tank effluent could be controlled with VS, point source erosion sites could be identified and fixed with VS followed by tree planting. Watershed mine tailings – a source of water borne contaminants could be stabilized with VS. Sea walls (dykes), river banks, bridge abutments, and roads can be stabilized with VS – thus helping to prevent infrastructure and flood damage. So it goes on. This one technology can do it all!

There are tens of thousands of paid persons in these countries who are doing very little and who make minimum impact. They should be retrained and put to work. I can guarantee that they will respond positively if good leadership is provided. Schools should introduce VS as part of the curricula for rural children. We know it works – See East Bali Poverty Project – 10,000 families changed through the introduction of vetiver to children – no more starvation, no more unbalanced diets, good clean water and therefore better health, roads that don’t collapse and no more landslides. see https://www.vetiver.org/g/community.htm

If nothing is done these communities will eventually vanish and so too will our the world’s resources. As President Elect Obama says “WE CAN”, I say “WE MUST”. Now is the time for ACTION – not TALK.

Dick Grimshaw