North Leeward schools learning about vetiver grass
February 9, 2024
North Leeward schools learning about vetiver grass

Knowledge of vetiver grass, locally known as lavender grass, is being passed down to the younger generation through a schools awareness project being conducted in North Leeward.

So far, four schools- Westwood Methodist School; Rose Hall Government School; Fitz Hughes Government School; and Spring Valley Government School have been visited with more schools will be covered over the next two weeks.

The initiative is being led by Hand2Earth and is an interim activity of the Farmland Conservation Project for North Leeward farmers sponsored by the SVG Conversation Fund.

In 2022, North Leeward farmers underwent training in vetiver technology, installing grass systems in 18 north leeward farm sites stretching from Petit Bordel in the north to Belle Isle Correctional Facility in the south. The grass systems are used to prevent soil erosion, regenerate soil quality, and boost crop yields.

The history of vetiver grass in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) dates back almost a century and due to its resilient nature, Hand2Earth’s Project Manager, Vonnie Roudette designed the project as a means to regenerate lands in North Leeward which were affected by the 2021 eruption of La Soufriere volcano.

Roudette told SEARCHLIGHT that the schools awareness program is aimed at sensitizing students, as well as teachers, about the uses of the grass and how it forms part of SVG’s agri-heritage.

“We don’t want to leave the children out as they are an important part of carrying the information forward.”

She said the students are particularly interested in the medicinal and craft uses of vetiver grass and the awareness program has sparked renewed interest in communities about the usefulness of the plant.

The 2022 program saw close to 20 farmers being trained in land contouring, soil microbiology and natural processes of soil regeneration, and this cohort is spearheading the schools awareness projects.

“It is really lovely to see farmers going into the schools as educators and custodians of agri-heritage…the project has brought them together, it has empowered them,” she said.

During the school visits, farmers share information about the practical applications of vetiver grass and students also view Hand2Earth’s documentary on the program titled ‘Vetiver Our Heritage’.

Roudette explained that after the schools awareness initiative Hand2Earth will be continuing the 2022 project which is being funded by the United Nation Development Programme Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme.

The next phase will expand on the restoration work at the heritage site in Troumaca and train additional farmers, as well as community craft training and schools programs.