Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and BarbudaWith the support of the British High Commission, through IAMovement’s 2018 project “The Vetiver Network West Indies (TVNWI)”; a stakeholder outreach trip was carried out in Antigua in November 2018, which entailed an introductory workshop to local farming cooperatives, NGOs and other nature-based entities and community groups, facilitated by the GEF Small Grants Programme and Department of Environment. Site visits were also conducted on the properties and projects of some of the workshop attendees, and general reconnaissance of the island was completed to observe land and water-based challenges being faced where The Vetiver System (VS) could provide solutions. Strong interest in The Vetiver System (VS) solutions were voiced and partnership opportunities developed with the Barbuda Farmers Cooperative, MIPA, and Wallings Nature Reserve.

Barbuda is a low lying and heavily sea-sprayed island, with challenges of coastal erosion and a lack of fertile topsoil. The erosion protection and mulching (topsoil development) capabilities of vetiver grass are therefore of interest to assist with these challenges.

Efforts were also made to locate and identify the existence of vetiver grass on Antigua, but none could be found. It was therefore concluded that to make use of The Vetiver System (VS) in Antigua and Barbuda, initial stocks will need to be supplied from neighboring Caribbean islands – such as Dominica.

Grassroots4LaVie – Antigua & Barbuda

The short video below captures some of the VEEP/VS training and outreach activities along with community and stakeholder feedback on the IICA CBF EbA Project in Antigua & Barbuda

VETIVER STORIES |  These Vetiver Stories depict country snapshots as of May 2023, presenting perspectives from both the IICA-CBF EbA Project communities and also the supporting local IICA Offices on their experiences through the project, its impact, as well as plans for continuation as the IICA-CBF EbA Project approaches its official close in August 2023.

The IICA CBF EbA Project ‘Grassroots4LaVie’ was implemented by IICA working alongside key technical implementing partners; IAMovement who served as lead designer and specialist for implementation of the Vetiver Education & Empowerment Project (VEEP) and the Vetiver System (VS) training and installation activities, and the University of Florida who served as lead for Monitoring & Evaluation and drone lidar interventions and trainings.

Note: direct quotations are written in Creole English, preserving the language in which they were spoken

A view from the top – Cooke Landfill overlooking mangrove swamp area connecting to the ocean below

Bendals, Antigua

 This story includes insights and perspectives shared by Ms. June Jackson, Executive Director of the community-based organization (CBO), Gilbert Agricultural and Rural Development (GARD) Center, and Mr. Craig Thomas, IICA National Specialist for Antigua and Barbuda, whose duties initially included identifying beneficiaries, possible site locations for vetiver installations and also the potential key partners who would work with IICA under the project, and then supporting the CBO and partner organizations in the implementation of the project.

Background and responses to vetiver

While Ms. Jackson recalls hearing about “bed grass” (vetiver) as a child, like another recalled term ‘bedding grass’ in Trinidad & Tobago, she says that many of the younger project participants did not seem to know of the grass, even by its colloquial name. She says that the EbA Project therefore provided a learning experience for them. Mr. Thomas also shares that he was not familiar with the grass previously, however, he says that elders in the communities had a recollection of it – it was used in beds instead of sponge, hence the name “bed grass”. And while vetiver was once widely used in Antigua and Barbuda, by the start of the project intervention, the deep-rooted grass had been close to extinction on the islands. Cue the import of vetiver grass from Dominica to Antigua through the EbA project – the first export/import of its kind for the region! Now, Ms. Jackson, who has become a major advocate for vetiver because of all its uses and benefits, fervently defends the grass as her “good grass”, should anyone regard it with skepticism.

Vetiver farmer Lucien in Dominica, carrying boxes to be labelled and transported to the Port for export to Antigua.

The separation and preparation of Vetiver slips placing into a holding receptacle with water for the quarantine period (IICA-CBF EbA Project, June 2021)

Mr. Thomas said that the interest in using and preserving vetiver is now high in Antigua and Barbuda, noting that the green business aspect of the EbA project seemed to have generated the most interest and excitement in the project communities. “You see the value of the grass being added through by-products and there have been a vast number of by-products that have been derived from the vetiver grass, by-products such as pillow mists and aroma pouches,” shared Mr. Thomas. While the demand for the green engineering aspect was not as great as it was in the more steeply sloping Windward Islands, Mr. Thomas said that a few persons living in sloped areas in Antigua have now started using vetiver to control erosion, and the project activities at Cooks Landfill have also led to an appreciation for the use of vetiver installations in other environmental protection applications, for example, at the landfill where the vetiver roots aid in filtering runoff.

“When they’re doing the training, they try to leave the training with the information, but when they come back the next day, they’re going to say, ‘I researched,’ or ‘I saw this on YouTube’ and, you know, they will ask their questions,” Ms. Jackson said. Concurring with Mr. Thomas, that the green business component of the project was a highlight for community members, she described:
“We do have women, more so, who really experiment with different areas of the byproducts of the vetiver grass. And it’s quite interesting to see how much they would have gotten from it, what it can be used for to become sustainable for themselves as well as their families… … The participants experiment. There’s one young lady who’s actually going to use it to make ice cream because of learning that somewhere in Costa Rica they were able to use it to make sorbet.”

Ms. Jackson credits the project’s engagement with the farmers for a recent increase in demand for vetiver grass for landscape purposes, however, she says believes there’s still a lot of outreach that needs to be done among the farming community. “We are getting the reception, it’s just that in terms of continuity, we need to see more persons become involved in it for whichever area they want to focus on,” said Ms. Jackson. She recalled overhearing enthusiastic discussions among the group who do the vetiver installations:

“They started thinking of, ‘Okay, how else can we plant besides planting it as a hedge row? How can we do a fencing area. How would it… Would it damage the structure of any fencing if you plant it?’ You know, so you were hearing conversation from the guys themselves that were actually planting those vetiver grass and because they were able to see all the different components of it. The learning component of it made a whole lot of difference for them.”

Group talk and sharing activities between members of the GARD Centre, IAMovement, and project participants at the Cooke Landfill at the end of the VEEP/VS training period in October 2021 – pictured is Victor Harris delivering some inspirational remarks

Mr Jonathan Barcant of IAMovement alongside Ms Anika Aska, Extension Officer at the Ministry of Agriculture for Antigua and Barbuda, during the core VEEP/VS training and field implementation period in October 2021


Mr. Thomas outlined the proudest moments for IICA Antigua and Barbuda, “So from an IICA perspective, the role of IICA in terms of supporting local groups, supporting our farmers, supporting our women – because most of these persons who would have received training, are women, and are youth.” He added, “So we continue to do what our mandate is, supporting our member states and seeing how we can improve the agricultural sector, the rural development sector and at the same time improve people’s livelihood and without destroying the environment, because this is an environmental-based project.”

He also believed that IICA’s export of vetiver grass as the first legal movement of vetiver grass across islands, and subsequent successful propagation, is particularly noteworthy.

From an educational standpoint, Mr. Thomas made special reference to the project’s creative arts competition for youth, which brought the knowledge of vetiver to secondary school students and engaged them in creative problem-solving and art-making. Students also visited the nurseries and main installation site at Cooks Landfill, where they saw vetiver grass applied to protect the environment.

Antigua’s Top 3 entries in the IICA-CBF EbA Project’s Climate Solution Creative Arts Competition for youth, “The Art of Adapting”: #1 Nature’s Secret by Ariana Armstrong (overall 3rd place); #2 Positivity by Adaria Hendrickson; #3 Her Beauty by Hannah Akalazu

“GARD as a grassroots NGO, now can add another feather to their cap in terms of teaching persons about the vetiver grass and how they can improve their livelihood by using the vetiver grass,” said Mr. Thomas. Apart from providing support for NGOs, the IICA National Specialist for Antigua and Barbuda also spoke of the project’s impact on small businesses who expanded their product lines and their niche within the agro processing industry. He described:

“In Antigua and Barbuda, persons are always looking for an edge, something different, especially in the agro processing industry. And with the vetiver grass now, it has now added value to what you want to do, with respect to the agro procedure, how you want to improve your product. You can now add the vetiver grass as a flavor… ”

The Ministry of Agriculture and the local government are also now paying more attention to vetiver grass, and how it can help address some of the issues they may be behaving within the agricultural sector, according to Mr. Thomas. He noted that further conversations would need to be held on the protection of vetiver from a policy standpoint, however, the continued involvement by the Ministries that house the project’s two vetiver nurseries is expected:

“The forestry unit will continue to preserve the grass, protect the grass, and they themselves will plant the grass in strategic areas that are being affected especially by the erosion. So they’re going to look at it from the green engineering part of it. The forestry unit will be using the grass to improve areas that are being affected by soil erosion.”

Mr. Thomas shared that the 6,500 plants originally imported from Dominica have been used to propagate over 60,000 plants so far in Antigua over a two and a half year period.

Ms. Jackson said that the proudest moment for her was seeing what they as an organization were able to accomplish through the green business component. “The project would have given us a stepping stone as to the way forward. For us, we are seeing it as a form of continuation,” Ms. Jackson shared, “where we’re looking forward to bringing on persons to train them to do the byproducts, and for them also to be able to receive some form of payment by doing these products after the training… Because we are an organization that thrives on sustainability for young people, women more so, we are happy that there was a component of it that came out where you could actually see tangibly what women can participate in in order to to benefit a lot from the vetiver grass. And I’ll keep saying ‘by-products’ all the way, yeah!”

Vetiver Green Businesses and Outlook

Business Development inception meeting in Antigua with the two selected businesses for the vetiver green business in October 2022

The two beneficiary vetiver green businesses that were established under the project are Neé Shyonté, a beauty line that has now expanded to incorporate vetiver, and GARD Center. GARD has rebranded itself, adding vetiver to their brand, according to Mr. Thomas:
“So when you want information on vetiver grass, if you are going to be sourcing vetiver grass, GARD has branded themselves as the entity that will provide that service for you in terms of all from stage one to the last stage.”

Ms. Jackson shared that GARD is at the startup stage in terms of the vetiver green business, and is currently working on marketing. They already have a few products under their belt, and are preparing to launch a new product in June 2023.

L to R: Green business development planning meeting that took place in February 2023, for the exhibition session; Beneficiary Jenee Henry with new Vetiver products; June Jackson- GARDC with the new products (IICA Antigua, Feb 17, 2023)

From the approximately 20 persons who benefitted from the project’s handicraft training, Ms. Jackson says that about ten of them, all women, are consistently producing products using vetiver. The group is currently experimenting with the grass, and trying to ascertain whether they can make it sustainable for them, and how. “There are times they may not have the finances to come up with some of the things that they want to do,”  Ms. Jackson said, “The hope is to get a cadre of women and create a little cooperative. That’s something that we have always wanted to create, a social enterprise that women can benefit from.”

Products by Antigua and Barbuda’s green business entrepreneurs on display at the closing ceremony on April 12, 2023:

GARD Center

Nee Shoynte Beauty – “Meeting and exceeding beauty standards through means of enhancement – not manipulation or alteration”

2 ElUniKue Enterprises


With regards to the green engineering applications, Mr. Thomas said that continued outreach is needed. Presently, he said that backyard farmers have expressed higher interest in vetiver installations than farmers in general, with the exception of a few of the farmers who participated in the climate smart agriculture training through the project. “The majority of our flat lands are being used for other things, so persons are now being forced to live on sloped area,” Mr. Thomas said, relating a likely increased need for the implementation of vetiver installations to protect homes in the future. Other species of grasses have been used previously for land stabilization, such as guinea grass, however, the invasive nature of that species has caused it to become a nuisance, according to Mr. Thomas, who is also an agronomist. He believes vetiver would be a better solution for soil stabilization as it would not become as invasive due to its method of propagation, and additionally, vetiver grass presents the benefit and potential for a wide range of by-products.

The beautiful creativity of Ms Mandeka Mason shown through her vetiver root earrings displayed outdoors alongside her comfrey oil after vetiver installation activities in October 2021

Challenges and lessons learned

“It’s a learning experience for GARD Centre as well, not only as an organization, but an organization that does training for the at risk vulnerable community,” Ms. Jackson reflected.

According to Mr. Thomas, Ms. Jackson faced challenges initially with buy-in from some of her board members, who felt that the project may have seemed too experimental or tentative. And so, she did her research, spoke to environmentalists, found out about the historical use of vetiver in Antigua, and learned about present-day applications of vetiver grass. She shared, “And during that research, speaking to persons who know about these things, for me personally, from GARD’s standpoint, I saw the end result. The end result for me was the byproducts, because over the years we have been trying to see what can GARD do or what can GARD create to use as a form of sustainability or continuity as an organization who is targeting vulnerable persons.” As GARD Center is an agricultural organization that has provided landscaping courses, the use of vetiver in landscaping and soil stabilization also stood out to Ms. Jackson. She saw the potential for providing support services to hotels in this area, as well as selling vetiver grass as a landscaping component.

“People are now seeing the results of it,” Mr. Thomas remarked, commending Ms. Jackson’s efforts.

Ms. Jackson turns challenges into opportunities for learning. She shares an account:                  

“I’ll give you one experience from the nursery. When we planted them (vetiver) first, in our area up here where we are located in Mercer’s Creek, we have issues with the donkeys. And after we would have gotten our nursery well-planted, irrigation and all of that set up. We, I came one morning and my, my hair was all up in the air because the donkeys had a feast when they were! We didn’t realize that they would eat it (the vetiver) because we know it’s a little hard, we didn’t realize at an early stage they would eat it, so they did. But the good part about it is that we learned that it is a way of us getting it cut back. So that when you cut it back now, it starts to spring and start to grow even more rapidly. So that moment was not so good, but good in the end because we didn’t have to bring on the team to actually do the cutting back at that time.”

She speaks about the challenge of Antigua’s drought conditions:
“All of the mechanisms were put in place to get tanks so that we could set up an irrigation to eliminate that. Those are moments that you can say you’re proud of because of what was accomplished and what you learned during that time. So should we have to do, say, assist a farmer in setting up a nursery, we now know what to say to them that is quite important or quite key for them to have a successful, a successful farm of vetiver grass.”

Mr. Thomas also shares on the learnings provided through the challenges at the installation site:

 “There (wasn’t) any available water supply. So most of the plants that were propagated at the initial stage would have died. And so what we would have done, we would have revisited how we can plant in that area and still have them to survive. So we would have installed drip irrigation systems through gravity feeding …using 800 gallon tanks. So that was a lesson learned. The propagation part of it, instead of planting them directly to the soil the preference was to plant them in bags, with soils, get a good root root system and then plant them.”

Noting that each situation is different, Mr. Thomas said that another lesson learned is to look at the situation on the ground, to make use of what is available, and also to adapt. The ability to provide a constant moisture supply would be a serious consideration for the continued use of vetiver in Antigua and Barbuda, according to Mr. Thomas. “I think we need to focus on the best ways to propagate this grass, given the situation that is on the ground, so it can adapt to the environment. So from that end, that is the only part I think that we need to look at,” he shared, “And then for the product development, see how we can continue to develop specific products using the vetiver grass.” Testing continues for vetiver grass in Antigua and Barbuda’s environmental conditions. Upcoming is the propagation of 500 plants on a sand dune over in Barbuda, where properties are being affected by sea water and erosion. Stay tuned!

Vetiver infused coconut oil is another unique ElUniKue Enterprises product which came out of the Grassroots4LaVie project

Vetiver Bora Bora and Berry Fusion hair, face and bodywash products by unique ElUniKue Enterprises sitting on some woven vetiver grass placemats

Vetiver installation at Cooks Landfill in October 2021

One year later, in December, 2022: Cutting back the hedge rows, and weeding and replacement of grass, at Cooks Landfill, Antigua (Photo: EbA Project)

Project videographer Mr Lawrence Dupuis captures overhead views standing at the top of the Cooke Landfill in Antigua (October 2021)

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