|Vetiver grass has been an essential weapon in the armoury of Self Help Africa as it seeks to find viable and affordable means of combating the chronic problem of soil erosion in sub-Saharan Africa.|
A tropical plant which is common in much of Asia, Vetiver has been highly effective in halting the actual process of erosion resulting from heavy rainfall and harsh climatic conditions. It has also played an important role in the regeneration of areas suffering the effects of desertification.
If planted along contours across a slope, vetiver clumps, which usually stand about 30 cm in diameter and 50-150 cm high will produce tillers, forming what is effectively a green hedge. This enables it to trap crop residues and silts which are eroded by run-off, and creates a natural earth embankment.
Vetiver grass also has a deep thick root system which spreads vertically rather than horizontally, and can therefore efficiently endure harsh conditions.
The roots densely bind together like an underground curtain or wall, enabling it to store water and moisture. However, since the root system expands sideways up to only 50 cm, it imposes no obstacle to the nearby plants and is thus considered an effective measure for soil and water conservation.
Vetiver hedgerows maintain soil moisture and soil surface and at the same time, are suitable for cultivating along with economic crops. Growing vetiver grass is simple, applicable and money-saving.
It has been widely used by Self Help Africa as one of the key planting components in land rehabilitation activities in Ethiopia, and other countries where the organisation is carrying out extensive measures to combat soil erosion and land degradation.