"Few existing plants have the unique attributes of multiple uses, environmentally friendly, effective and simple to use as Vetiver grass. Few existing plants that have been known and used quietly over centuries, have suddenly been promoted and widely used world wide in the last 20 years as has Vetiver grass. And fewer plants still have been idolized as Mir acle Grass, Wonder Grass with capacity to create a living wall, a living filter strip and “live nail” reinforcement.
The Vetiver System (VS) is dependent on the use of a very unique tropical plant, Vetiver grass – Vetiveria zizanioides , recently reclassified as Chrysopogon zizanioides . The plant can be grown over a very wide range of climatic and soil conditions, and if planted correctly can be used virtually anywhere under tropical, semi-tropical, and Mediterranean climates. It has characteristics that in totality are unique to a single species. When Vetiver grass is grown in the form of a narrow self-sustaining hedgerow it exhibits special characteristics that are essential to many of the different applications that comprise the Vetiver System.
The species of Chrysopogon zizanioides, that is promoted in nearly 100 countries for VS applications originates in south India, is sterile, non invasive and has to be propagated by clump subdivision. Generally nursery multiplication of bare rooted plants is the preferred method. The average multiplication rate varies but is normally , in a nursery, about 1:30 after about three months. Nursery clumps are divided into planting slips of about 3 tillers each, and typically planted 15 cm apart on the contour to create, when mature, a barrier of stiff grass that acts as a buffer and spreader of down slope water flow, and a filter to sediment. A good hedge will reduce rainfall run off by as much as 70% and sediment by as much as 90%. A hedgerow will stay where it is planted and the sediment that is spread out behind the hedgerow gradually accumulates to form a long lasting terrace with Vetiver protection. It is a very low cost, labour intensive technology (linked to the cost of labour) with very high benefit: cost ratios. When used for civil works protection its cost is about 1/20 of traditional engineered system s and designs. Engineers liken the Vetiver root to a "Living Soil Nail" with an average tens ile strength of 1/6 of mild steel.
Vetiver grass can be used directly as a farm income earning product, or it can be used for applications that will protect river basins and watersheds against environmental damage, particularly point source environmental problems relating to: 1. sediment flows and 2. excess nutrients, heavy metals and pesticides in leachate from toxic sources. The two major uses are closely linked.
Results of numerous trial and mass applications of Vetiver grass in the last 20 years in many countries also show that the grass is particularly effective in natural disaster reduction (flood, lands lide, road batter failure, river bank, irrigation canal and coastal erosion, water retaining structure instability etc.), environmental protection (reduction of la nd and water contamination, treatment of solid and liquid waste, soil improvement etc.), and many other uses.
All these applications can directly or indirectly impact on the rural poor through either protection or rehabilitation of farm land, providing better moisture retention and provision of direct farm income, or indirectly by protecting rural infrastructure.
Vetiver Systems can be used by most of the sectors involved in rural and community development; its use should be incorporated, where appropriate, into the development plans for community, district or region. If all the sectors use it, there is then an opportunity for Vetiver gr ass producers, both small and big to get involved with VS as an income genera ting enterprise, whether it be producing planting material, contracting as landscapers for slope stabilization and other needs, or selling Vetiver by-products such as handicrafts, mulch, thatch, forage and other material. Hence it is technology that can kick start a significant climb out of poverty for a large segment of the community. The technology is in the public domain and the information is free.
Nevertheless, the potential for Vetiver usage remains huge and awar eness about its application needs to be made available to the public. In addition there remains some reluctance, concern, even doubt about the values and effectiveness of Vetiver grass. In most cases, failure in the use of Vetiver grass is due to improper understanding or incorrect applications rather than Vetiver System itself.
This manual is comprehensive, detailed and practical. It draws on ongoing Vetiver work in Vietnam and elsewhere in the world. Its technical recommendations and observations are based on real life situations, problems and solutions. The manual is expected to be used widely by people using and promoting the Vetiver System, and we hope it will be translated into many languages. We have to thank the authors for a job well done!
The manual was first compiled in both Vietnamese and English, but opportunity for the printing of its Vietnamese version came first; both versions are now being published. There are commitments to translate this manual to Chinese, French and Spanish in the near future".
Founder and Chairman of The Vetiver Network International.