DominicaWith 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 Dominica November 2018, which was also facilitated by the Inter-American Institute for Corporation on Agriculture (IICA). IAMovement partnered with IICA and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MOAFF) on the ground in Dominica to host a 1-day workshop focused on “Sustainable Soil and Water Management Practices using the Vetiver System (VS)”, held in the Kalinago Territory at the newly built Climate Resilience Technical Assistance Centre on the east coast. Approximately 30 participants attended comprising primarily farmers and MOAFF extension officers. Following the 1-day workshop, site visits were also conducted with MOAFF to assess past vetiver projects and identify future agricultural properties in need; and with farmers in the very steep and mountainous Petit Soufriere area.

Vetiver has a long history of use in Dominica, and was once upon a time well recognized and commonly implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MOAFF). Past education and outreach initiatives in the 1980’s also led to the adoption of The Vetiver System (VS) especially in the Kalinago territory, where in several locations vetiver grass hedgerows can still be observed on contour properly installed some 30 to 40 years later, and its occasional use for roadside stabilization as well. It is understood that once upon a time, vetiver grass used to stabilize road embankments and edges was far more extensive, and remnants of this remain. In recent years the construction of wider roads through major governmental projects led to the removal of these installations through the cutting and filling of existing embankments, and these were generally not replaced afterward.

Similar to St Vincent, it appears that communities on the island which developed a livelihood through other uses of vetiver grass such as production and sale of vetiver grass handicrafts also maintained inter-generational awareness and implementation of VS solutions for land and water-based challenges.

Very interestingly, another type of uniform vegetative hedgerow installation was observed across Dominica throughout most of the island – colourful crotons. As was explained by farmers in the Kalinago area who participated in the November 2018 Vetiver System (VS) workshop, it turns out that the practice of croton hedgerows began within the last 2 decades, chosen because of its landscaping beauty but mimicking vetiver grass hedgerows which had become commonplace. The croton hedgerows often tend to be installed in very much the same way that vetiver grass hedgerows would be, and provide some erosion and stabilization benefits through their root systems; however the benefits provided by crotons in this regard are lesser than what’s possible through the VS, given much shallower root systems and other differing physiological characteristics.

Where Hurricane Maria devastated Dominica in 2017, an estimated 10,000 landslides took place during and afterward due to intense saturation of soil caused by heavy rainfall, and extreme winds tearing trees out of the ground. While having 9 active volcanoes, Dominica is also known as the land of 365 rivers due to the quantity of water which falls as rain over its very steep and undulating topography. The re-introduction and widespread knowledge sharing on vetiver grass and The Vetiver System (VS) in Dominica at this time can therefore assist greatly with building grassroots community resilience to soil and water-related challenges, as Dominica aspired to rebuild stronger and achieve its vision of becoming the First Climate Resilient country in the world.

Grassroots4LaVie – Dominica

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 Dominica

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

Dominica project participants alongside IICA and IAMovement staff showcasing a vetiver roots specimen in T&T, during green business training and field visits in August 2023 (L to R: Troy Shillingford, Jaime Romany, Joseph Brandford, Julia Winston, Jonathan Barcant)

Good Hope, Petite Soufrière  and San Sauveur, Dominica

Interviews were conducted virtually in May 2023 with IICA National Specialist for Dominica, Mr. Kent Coipel, and also Mr. Carcial Winston who was representing the local CBO, the Petite Soufrière and San Sauveur Village Council (PSSVC). With a strong on-the-ground presence, Mr Winston worked initially as the project’s first coordinator in Dominica, and also stepped in as the acting foreman. Mr. Coipel and the IICA Dominica team supported the implementation of the technical program, bridged the Project Management Unit based in Trinidad and Tobago, and the PSSVC, and also supported the various other agencies and institutions involved as partners in the project.

Mr Jonathan Barcant of IAMovement interacts with Ms Regina Thomas, a long-time carrier of indigenous vetiver knowledge in the Kalinago Territory who has continued to make use of vetiver grass for mulching and thatching purposes for several decades (December 2020)

Initial project introductory sessions taking place at the PSSSVC Community Centre in Petit Soufriere where the depth and density of vetiver grass roots are being showcased in a laminated image

Background, and responses to vetiver

Dominica has had a long and recurring history of vetiver use. Mr. Coipel shares:

“Vetiver had a big industry in terms of the craft industry in the seventies, eighties, even early nineties. We had a major private sector owner, Tropicraft, that did the mats and craft items, as well as the people from the Kalinago territory were involved in the weaving, in terms of baskets, mats and other craft items made out of vetiver.”

Vetiver was also used widely in the past along with terracing on the slopes of the northeast coast for land stabilization, shared Mr. Coipel, who described that “a lot of that disappeared during the banana industry era, where people were spraying more and more, so we lost quite a bit of the vetiver along that coast.”

Visiting the local Craft Market in the Kalinago territory observing green business, during an Antigua-Dominica peer-to-peer exchange. Vetiver farmer Mr. Lucien at left, and June Jackson, Executive Director of GARDC at right (May 2023)

Being schooled by the Kalinago Territory ‘traditional knowledge’ vetiver experts (May 2023)

Mr. Winston shares his personal experience as it relates to knowledge of vetiver:

“I knew the plant growing up. As far as the purpose of the plant, I had no idea…Maybe the forefathers or the grandparents knew about it. But we who came up in this era had little information about it. So I think that the knowledge in this generation was not as vast as probably 40 years ago, maybe a little further back.”

While he says that vetiver was not as widely used for land stabilization as they had expected, Mr. Coipel now speaks of the resurgence of vetiver in the project communities:
Since after Tropical Storm Erika and Hurricane Maria and other storms in between, we see a greater interest in the use of vetiver, and the project itself is contributing towards the promotion of vetiver as a green solution.”

“Recently I took a walk in the communities and the amount of vetiver that I saw planted on little sloping areas, everywhere you go now you see people have the trees planted. And I was surprised,” corroborates Mr. Winston. Both Mr. Winston and Mr. Coipel observed that interest in vetiver seems to have surged in the communities after a rainfall event that took place in November 2022, resulting in a major landslide that cut off the community of Petite Soufrière and also took the life of a community member. In the course of those devastating events, however, a vetiver plot installed by the project remained intact, holding the land in place where it was planted, and effectively demonstrating the effectiveness of the grass. Mr. Winston shares that the project communities of Good Hope, Petite Soufrière and San Sauveur, are among the country’s top five disaster-prone areas, and considers the use and knowledge of the plant to be of immediate importance, especially as it relates to land stabilization.

Aerial view of the impacts of heavy rains in Dominica in November 2022 using drone provided by the EbA project and flown by a community pilot trained under the EbA project (Photo: Amos Benjamin)

Green business development

Vetiver handicraft training in October 2021, facilitated by Vonnie Roudette

Although the establishment of vetiver green businesses was slow to start, Mr. Coipel shared that business development is underway, with growing interest from the community. In Dominica, the vetiver green business component has incorporated vulnerable groups including women and youth, who received necessary entrepreneurship training before product development and branding could occur, according to Mr. Coipel. “We were not able to engage a business group at the beginning. We had to actually form the business group first and then get the business group more involved in the byproducts of vetiver in developing their products,” he explained.

A look at the green business training which took place at the San Sauveur Primary School in December 2022

The upcoming vetiver green businesses include a women-run nursery that will continue to sell planting material for vetiver installations, a gang involved in doing the vetiver installations at various sites, and a third, budding group of soap makers and vetiver handicrafters. “We’re hoping to see before the end of the project some of the products that they would be presenting on the market,” said Mr. Coipel, “So they’re doing the craft soaps and they’re also looking at other oils like, like bay, as a mix with the vetiver oil to give this kind of blend, because in the Petite Soufrière San Sauveur, a bay is a leading essential oil being used there.” According to Mr. Coipel, the three groups are expected to complete formalizing their businesses, and are working towards an anticipated launch in the near future.

Site Assessments being conducted in Petit Soufriere by Mr Coipel of IICA, Mr Jonathan Barcant of IAMovement and agriculture extension officers of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Blue and Green Economy for Dominica


While the CBO, PSSVC, has taken on community maintenance before, including road rehabilitation and drainage projects, Mr. Winston comments that protection of community infrastructure via vetiver installations, rather than merely maintenance and repair, is a new and exciting aspect to their work. “A lot of young people now have the knowledge of the plant and what its purpose and uses are for,” says Mr. Winston, “If we could just come together and just make it broad and big, that would be what I would really love to see. I think it’s a beautiful story because like I said, we were not knowledgeable about it.” He envisions vetiver being planted on every road network and roadside on the eastern district, which he says has been pummelled by landslides.

“I think the EbA project seeded something that we need to continue,” says Mr. Coipel, “I think we need to scale up this project.” He elaborates further:
“We need a similar project, but across a number of communities in a serious way, because like I indicated, that we are highly vulnerable to land degradation, because if we have an intense rainfall in Dominica, you’re going to have a lot of land slippage. We have seen it very often, every time it has a rainy season, we have a lot of land slippage and we have more and more people using the hill slopes for agriculture. So a project of that nature scaled up can help in a major way in protecting the land, which is an important resource in terms of agricultural production.”

 “The Ministry is promoting climate resilient approaches to agriculture. They’re looking to do a number of projects towards land management through different means… I have spoken to the Ministry in terms of looking at, scaling up this project in other communities where it would be required, where it’s desirable and they had that interest,” shared Mr. Coipel. He also mentioned the interest by the Ministry in using LIDAR and the drone technology to monitor these kinds of actions across the island. Mr. Coipel commended the project’s holistic approach, and credited the involvement of development partners, institutions and agencies as helping to provide wider networks and an expanded viewpoint to the project.

Mr. Coipel shared that IICA is continuing their work with vetiver in Dominica beyond the EbA Project, using the grass as part of Disaster Risk Management and sustainable land management, and expanding the work into their other project opportunities. They have already included vetiver as one of the species of grass being used for sustainable land management through a project with the Partnership Initiative for Sustainable Land Management (PISLM), according to Mr. Coipel. “Dominica is a very mountainous country and the farmers actually practise agriculture along the slopes. The use of vetiver is becoming part of the design, in terms of the farming systems for Dominica under the PISLM project, and the EbA project certainly making a serious contribution towards scaling up, or towards the heightened interest in the use of the grass,” explained Mr. Coipel. In addition, he said that the vetiver nursery established through the EbA Project is expected to continue supplying future projects and initiatives run by the government and other departments.

“The project itself also shows an opportunity for vetiver to be an exported commodity,” said Mr. Coipel. The project pioneered the export of vetiver in the region, where the plants supplied from Dominica to Antigua were multiplied and utilised for the project’s implementation. “That was the first intervention that took place, where we exported vetiver to Antigua and Barbuda, and the farmers that grow vetiver, they are now interested in looking at the possibility of exporting vetiver to other islands,” Mr. Coipel shared. He notes the potential as well for incorporating vetiver craft as part of the island’s agrotourism industry, with opportunities for further development of cosmetics, oils and other vetiver byproducts. For the crafting component, Mr. Coipel envisions that a partnership with groups from the Kalinago territory can help to support various stages of production, for example, with the initial weaving of the vetiver grass that is used to create the various products.

The Antigua team meeting vetiver farmer Mr. Lucien in the Kalinago territory, the origin of plants exported to Antigua (May 2023)

Vetiver plantlets being prepared at the nursery in San Saveur for use in installations during the core VEEP/VS Training period led by Mr Jonathan Barcant of IAMovement (September 2021)

Prepared vetiver plants in trays at the San Saveur nursery undergo root soaking in water prior to installation at sites during the core VEEP/VS Training period (September 2021)

Mr. Coipel summarised the impact and opportunity of the project:

“The project provided an opportunity for a major vetiver project in Dominica. I believe that is what it provided and I believe it got the attention from the policymakers. It got the attention from the technicians, and moreso, it got the attention of the beneficiaries, the farmers, not just in Petite Soufrière, but around Dominica, because the demand for vetiver grass is increasing, from my observation. There are opportunities that the project profiled, that we need to probably expand a little more among the youths, among the women groups, and even beyond the community…The project accelerated and reaffirmed the importance of vetiver both in terms of a green solution and green business. And there’s certainly a drive towards using it.”

Climate-smart Agriculture (CSA) training for farmers was facilitated by IICA’s Value Chain and Agribusiness Specialist, Mr. Richard Rampersaud,in Castle Bruce, Dominica (May 23, 2023)

Vetiver knowledge being shared between long-time vetiver user and supplier Mr Lucien and Mr Jonathan Barcant of IAMovement in the Kalinago Territory of Dominica

Challenges and Lessons learned

“There were challenges at the beginning because one of the things that we wanted to promote is the really use of vetiver within the farming systems and not just stabilisation of the lands along the roads and so on,” said Mr. Coipel. While the installations in Petite Soufrière started off around roadsides and dwelling houses, he says that there were challenges with integrating vetiver into the farming system, for example where fully established tree crops provided too much shade which did not support the early development of the vetiver grass. He says that demonstration plots, as well as seeing vetiver in action during the November storm and landslide event, were integral to building confidence in the use of the grass. In addition to this, the steep nature of the hillsides means that vetiver would have to be married with other technologies, such as drains and softer gideons, said Mr. Coipel. He notes the cost of installation in these scenarios served initially to deter farmers from adopting the techniques, however, they were able to find support for some of the farmers to implement these practices through other projects and initiatives.

The projects vetiver installations during VEEP/VS field training and implementation activities supported and overseen by IAMovement in September 2021

Early involvement of partner groups on the ground was also a key area that Mr. Coipel noted as an area for improvement with future projects, not only for CBOs, but also for supporting agencies like the Ministry who will be responsible for continuation of knowledge transfer following the project:

“I think when we’re designing the projects, it’s good at the design stage for us to involve the partners, the parties that we want to work with, so that they would be very clear as to why we design it in a particular way. And their own ownership could be built into the project design.”

Mr. Coipel also noted capacity building and empowering the CBO as important for the project’s activities. Mr. Winston, who is also a secondary school teacher, says that while he’s learned a lot through the project about managing a community group, there is still a need for continued training and knowledge transfer. One key area he identified – preparing proposals to support future projects in the community.

Left to Right: PSSSVC Project Coordinator Carcial Winston, project videographer Lawrence Dupuis, PSSSVC Project Foreman Troy Shilingford, and project participant Elijah Durand during IAMovement site assessments and green business training activities undertaken in November 2022

Mr Jonathan Barcant of IAMovement and Mr Kent Coipel, IICA National Specialist for Dominica, taken at the IICA Delegation Office in Roseau during initial outreach activities conducted in December 2020

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