“Why are not more people using the Vetiver System technology”

The Vetiver System has come a long way over the past 20 years and there are a lot of users applying the technology for different purposes. We know that most users, once using it correctly, are avid fans of the technology. The question is “why are not more people using the technology”? “Why is it not being used at an accelerated rate”? or “is it?”

We are asked people from a round the world (see blog of November 15 2008), here follows a summary of their responses in order of importance:

  1.  Lack of knowledge and technology dissemination: this covers a wide range, including ignorance of the technology by administrators, policy makers and planners, uninformed technical professionals and lack of profession endorsement, teaching and learning limitations in universities and schools, limited press coverage, absence of mass marketing, and lack of publications (language barriers). Not using modern marketing tools. 
  2. Leadership: New technology introduction requires far sighted leadership with vision and commitment. A committed lead organization is required. Good NGOs and private sector companies can often do this best. Rarely found in government organization.
  3. Corruption: Not always, but VS is often seen as a low cost technology that does not attract high budget allocations, and therefore the opportunities and attractiveness for corrupt practices are much less than for high cost alternatives.
  4. Technology: Majority of solutions have in the past an engineering base. Most engineers have not been trained in bio-engineering solutions, particularly those that are low cost. Low cost biological solutions are often seen as too simple and as such are unattractive. Again applying low cost solutions result in lower fees for designers and executing contractors. Many higher cost solutions do not always last long and have to be replaced. – that is good for business!
  5. Specifications: Engineers In particular like clear specification. Specifications and standards should be followed – Bad application generally results in failure and detracts potential users. Site specificity is important. Often rather general standards are given and followed, and if not properly supervised and fine tuned can lead to failure.
  6. Multipurpose use: Two sides to this one. For some potential user groups such as railway and highway engineers it is best to have narrowly focused workshops and training on the application at hand. For other users such as farmers and rural planners there is a need to look at the wider aspects and the multi benefits that are possible from VS. In other words sometime the focus and the message is not right.
  7. Plant Propagation: Because Vetiver has to be vegetatively propagated an upfront investment and lead time is required. This can be a detraction. However there are plenty of demonstrations showing that small farmer private nurseries can be quickly established if there is a guaranteed market.
  8. Invasive species and native plant syndrome: This is more of a problem in developed countries. Sometimes deliberate miscasting of Vetiver as an invasive species (this has quietened in recent years). Many government projects in the US will only use native plants. Also well entrenched vested interest in other more “profitable” technology works hard to keep VS out.
  9. Research: Some research has been very adequate, in some cases government research staff have shown little interest – conflicting agendas, jeolousy, scientists without vision, research lagging behind field developments.
  10. Silver bullet: Overselling technology, this can be a problem. But generally occurs when the recipient is looking for problems. VS will do many things, but is sometimes deliberately misapplied in the hope of failure – then the failing silver bullet. However there are cases where Vetiver has been used in very marginal climatic areas (arid) with poor results. (Note: the terminology – magic grass – was not invented by TVNI)
  11. High profile demonstrations and projects: In some countries the lack of large scale examples can result in lowering of potential user interest.
  12. Economic Benefits: Economic benefits are not always obvious to he user, particularly small farmers with limited education. Larger users need to understand the benefits and value that Vetiver provides them in future cost saving and environmental benefits.