THE ST. VINCENT and the Grenadines Conservation Fund’s Farmland Conservation Project for farmers in North Leeward completed its fourth component in December last year. It involved installing vetiver grass systems in 18 farm sites in North Leeward ranging from Petit Bordel in the north to the Correctional Facility at Belle Isle in the south.
The project designs Vetiver grass technology into farm systems to prevent soil erosion, regenerate soil quality and boost crop yields to help sustainably develop the agricultural sector in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
The project, designed and managed by Vonnie Roudette and implemented by local NGO Hand2Earth, aims to restore over 70 vetiver grass hedgerows (known in the area as ‘lavender grass’) that are over 80 years old and were part of the largest soil conservation project in the region and which produced terraces up to 20 feet high. Research conducted during this project has identified these remarkable land forms as part of the oldest, most extensive vetiver soil conservation project in the region.
Due to lack of knowledge of farmers in recent times, much of the vetiver grass has been removed, and substantial amounts of topsoil have been lost through erosion. This project seeks to repair the hedgerows and prevent soil loss to benefit the livelihoods of farmer occupants.
The Hand2Earth/SVG Conservation Fund Project moves forward with the recognition of the value of the 90-year-old traditional plantings as Vincentian “agri-heritage” that has a crucial role to play in soil and land conservation to this day.
The farmers received indepth instruction on land contouring, soil microbiology, the natural processes of soil regeneration, determining conditions for plant growth through soil testing and observation. They also discovered how planting vetiver grass in their farm regenerates the soil through fostering the soil microbiome, providing organic matter, stimulating ground water retention and promoting biodiversity through attracting beneficial insects and repelling pests.
Through conducting various tests during their training, the farmers observed that the soil in this area lacks organic matter and ability to retain water, key factors that facilitate soil erosion. The subsequent setting up of vetiver systems in their farms addresses these issues.
The H2E/SVGCF project has assisted 20 farmers with tools, technical assistance and between 200-1000 vetiver plants to set up their individual farm systems along plotted contours. They also received a variety of seeds to develop a diverse range of produce on their farms.
In addition to the 18 farm installations, three vetiver nurseries have been established in Troumaca, Belmont and Belle Isle Correctional Facility. The nurseries will provide a renewable resource of vetiver plants to extend plantings to control land erosion in the area.