With 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.