Rebuilding Haiti must start from the ground up, with agricultural education
working hard planting lots of vetiver!
Criss is a Senior adviser in agriculture for Chemonics Working under contract to the U.S. Agency for Inter-national Development and other foreign aid donors
His current project is Haiti’s WINNER: Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources, 2009-2014 U.S. Agency for International Development
Reversing the course of economic and environmental decline in Haiti will require focused efforts of the government, private sector, civil society, and most importantly farmers who have been forced into economic choices that destroy the environment. For example, much of the perennial cover of Haiti's steep upper hillsides has been replaced by erosive annual cropping. As a consequence, the magnitude of flooding has increased, water supplies have become much more erratic, and both lives and livelihoods are under great threat. To reduce economic and environmental vulnerability, Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources (WINNER) will improve livelihoods of people living in the watershed through increased agricultural productivity and alternative income generation sources; improve critical infrastructure and reduce the threat of flooding by stabilizing hillsides to restore the plain's irrigation capacity; strengthen watershed governance to ensure greater local responsibility for the development of watershed-level management plans; and establish public-private partnerships to create cohesion among all stakeholders. Through these approaches, the WINNER program ultimately will seek to ensure that people living within targeted watersheds will have improved livelihoods, reduced threat from flooding and have invested in sustainable economic growth and environmental protection in the watershed.
This mission he worked in 7 different areas: Kenskoff, Duvier and Mahortière; Croix des Bouquets, Bas Boën; Cabaret, Archaie; Saut d’Eau, Mirebalais and in four river basin sections of Gonaives (La Quinte, Branlé, Bassin Magnan and Dubédou). All of these areas are prone to flooding or are parts of upper water sheds that source rain water that eventually reach large population zones.It takes an enormous amount of vetiver for the demands of there projects. These are fields of vetiver which has to be propogated many times.
Pictures of a couple of the 6 fields for this project... Objective 4.6 billion plants in 4 years for this project.
Attached are pictures taken in July/Aug 2010 on which we focused on learning and practicing to prepare to transplant vetiver “by the meter.”
Preparing the holes for planting vetiver strips
This is a different approach than transplanting planting vetiver “bare root” or from a nursery bag.
Preparing vetiver in narrow 1 meter long , 10 cm wide X 10 cm deep strips in a nursery over a period of 5-6 weeks (during the hot rainy season) allows the root system to intricately mesh together to form a tight and solid 1 meter long hedgerows.
These strips make large plantings quicker in short time periods for planting.
Transplanting this ribbon of attached vetiver plants reduces planting time, ensures better “traction” or anchoring of plants during the rains and begins to do it work of reducing sheet erosion and stabilizing soils as soon as planted. In addition, one is assured of getting close to 100% survival rate on the hillsides since at the nursery the plants are culled from the beginning to make sure there are no gaps between the 10-11 plants planted in a line. The drawback is the weight and difficulties of transporting 100 meters (1000 plants) to the site of planting unless it is near an accessible road.
We opted for this type of plant preparation because of season we are in (rains and cyclones) and we needed to move fast to protect river embankments on a large scale. While the “vetiver by the meter” takes more time and costs more at the preparation level, there is a reduction in planting time and maintenance, and the planting can be done during the rains. To plant, one cuts/digs a narrow furrows (11-12 cm wide and 2 cm deep), drops the meter long vetiver ribbon, heels/compacts it, and for good measure on steep hillsides, embankments or ravines, drives two wooden stakes through the connecting root system about 1/3 of the way from each end. By the time the stakes will have rotted, the roots of the vetiver will be deep in the soil and act as “live nails.”
These plants were individually planted from poly bags for this project to protect the road from eroding away on these steep hillsides.
These are polybags for planting vetiver indivdually.
These vetiver hedgerows are planted for agriculture with a lot of vegetation growing between the rows for soil regeneration.
We also established demonstration sites as part of vetiver application training. These included infrastructure protection (already one rural road among the attached pictures), riverbank stabilization, and gully protection. I will send other pictures in a subsequent email.
Here is a new video showing how the winner project is following the same plans we have been using. Vetiver grass the backbone of the project!