Stabilization of steep mountain slopes with Vetiver grass to enable vegetable gardens and permanent road access
About the Implementing organization
Name: East Bali Poverty Project (EBPP)
Year of establishment: 1998
Type of organization: Community-based association or organization / Legally recognized non-profit status / Indigenous group or organization
In 1998, when EBPP founders identified Desa Ban as the most impoverished and isolated, participatory community surveys identified severe malnutrition and endemic goitre, a direct result of a diet deficient in nutrients, exacerbated by a staple of cassava, which blocks iodine absorption to the body. The major challenge was to find a nature based solution for sustainable development, prioritizing nutrition: how to grow vegetables in this hostile terrain that could provide the essential micro-nutrients required for good health, especially for pregnant mothers and young children. It was necessary to be able to establish pilot organic vegetable gardens that could flourish despite soil erosion.
Vetiver grass (Chrysopogen zizanioides) was identified as the only ecologically and economically viable solution, research indicating that once established it could facilitate formation of terraces, thus forming a barrier to contain the up to 40cm soil erosion encountered each year. The first Vetiver slips bought in March 2000 protected the verges of over 5km of dirt roads to facilitate year-round access to remote health centers for 240 isolated families and enabled the start of the first organic vegetable gardens at EBPP schools, growing 15 types of vegetables and herbs. The solution was innovative in that Vetiver grass became the solution that children taught their parents and eventually the key for poverty elimination and sustainable development in this previously isolated village.
Type of Action
Protection / Restoration / Sustainable use
Sustainable Development Element
Food security / Water security / Disaster risk reduction
The environmental impacts of the Vetiver System solutions have been very substantial. Firstly by providing a sustainable natural solution for improving the diets of thousands of previously malnourished children, by facilitating lush vegetable gardens and ensuring that all parents understood the danger of a predominantly cassava based carbohydrate diet, which was replaced by potatoes and sweet potatoes. Secondly by conserving valuable soil and water that was trapped by the vetiver hedges and the long vetiver roots which extended up to 5 metres into the ground, slowing water precipitation which was retained in the soil for longer periods. Thirdly by providing nutritious animal fodder from the leaves which grew year round and supplemented the seasonal elephant grass for feeding livestock which was the key income for most Desa Ban families. Finally by protecting rehabilitated mountain springs to provide sustainable water supplies for communities domestic and livestock consumption.
Sustainable Development Impacts
The sustainable development impacts were many and holistic, impacting all aspects of community life with Vetiver grass hailed by the communities as being the key to their escape from poverty and opening their lives to the outside world and improved lives for their children and their children’s children. From starting with a sustainable solution to combat soil erosion, vetiver became the nature based solution for vegetable farming for improved nutrition, sustainable clean water supplies, but also stabilized precariously placed mountain homes and eventually became a source of nature based income for many families who planted vetiver nurseries, knowing that each single vetiver tiller planted would yield up to 10 more when harvested 3 months later and thus replanted eventually becoming a flourishing nursery with stocks they could sell, whilst cutting the rapidly growing leaves for mulch and cow fodder. Vetiver grass enabled 15,000 people to move from isolation to 21st century Bali.
The EBPP’s work in Desa Ban and documentation to international audiences resulted in EBPP founder, David Booth, being appointed in 2003 as the Indonesian Vetiver Network (IDVN) Coordinator by The International Vetiver Network (TVNI) at the 3rd International Conference on Vetiver in 2003 at Guangzhou, China. However, since 2001 the project promoted the benefits of the vetiver grass throughout Indonesia and after planting more than 2 million vetiver slips in the project since 2000, the project has assisted hundreds of communities, businesses, mining companies, new housing developments and individuals throughout Indonesia and gained international acclaim resulting in numerous awards and recognition at many conferences.
The Vetiver System is replicable and sustainable in many situations and is now used in over 100 countries in the world with many projects taken from examples of the EBPP/IDVN’s innovative solutions. As Vetiver is a tropical non-invasive clump grass originating in South India it only grows where you plant it. Vetiver is an upright, rigid, dense and deeply-rooted clump grass that binds the soil and when planted close together in a row, creates a dense hedge, slows down rainwater runoff and allows sediments to stay on site, eventually forming natural terraces and improving the shear strength of the soil. Its primary uses are for soil and water conservation, bio-engineering, phytoremediation of contaminated land and water and disaster mitigation. Its bi-products include livestock forage, fuel, handicrafts and perfumery. The project’s vetiver team has provided education and awareness to many communities, schools and universities which has spread the replicability of this amazing grass.
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