St. LuciaVetiver grass can be observed in various parts of St Lucia, and knowledge about its uses to tackle soil erosion and slippage is known by some on the island. But it is dwindling and not widespread, and similar to other islands such as Dominica and Trinidad, the knowledge present appears to be “wisdom of the elders” and is not currently being driven and transferred to younger generations in a significant way.

Vetiver installations can be found in some areas on roadside edges to stabilize embankments, but there is an evident need in many other similar areas where it is not implemented. It can also be found on the edges of some banana fields and along waterway embankments, also to provide stabilization of sloping terrain along these features to prevent their collapse. It has been reported that banana plant growing upstream of vetiver installations in these areas appears to perform better, which may be due to higher levels of moisture and accumulation of organic matter behind hedgerows.

On most English speaking Caribbean islands where vetiver is used, it has been found that knowledge and past implementation experience exists within the Government Ministries of Agriculture and Environment, and Forestry Divisions; often among select older generation members. And anecdotal evidence suggests that in the 1960’s/70’s civil servants in the Ministry of Infrastructure utilized vetiver grass for its slope stabilizing properties in certain sections of the West Coast road when it was built; however in recent decades it appears, however, to have been usurped by much more expensive rock gabion baskets and other hard infrastructure which will have incurred much greater cost to the nation. Local advocates hope that where possible vetiver can once again play a crucial role in stabilizing the island’s essential infrastructure and concurrently mitigating the impacts of heavy rain events by slowing water flow rates, rather than increasing them which hard solutions tend to do.

As part of the 2018 launch program for The Vetiver Network West Indies (TVNWI) supported by the British High Commission of Trinidad & Tobago; when various outreach was conducted it appeared that approximately 1 in 5 persons had some level of knowledge and awareness about vetiver grass.

One particular commercial use area of vetiver grass which is thriving in St Lucia is the harvesting, drying and sale of leaves for making beautiful thatch roof huts, which can be seen on some beaches, hotels and other tourist destinations. The Parish of Choiseul in the south is also known to be the primary place where vetiver handicrafts such as baskets and mats continue to be produced and sold to this day.

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 Saint Lucia

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

Overhead shot of the town of Canaries, Saint Lucia

Canaries, Saint Lucia

Three core members of the Canaries-based CBO, Canaries Community Improvement Foundation (CCIF), Mr. Kenroy Charles, Mr. Elijah Charlemagne, and Ms. Indy Simon, offered their reflections and project feedback during a visit to Trinidad in April 2023 where they were continuing business training facilitated by Project Partners IAMovement and IICA. Mr. Brent Theophile, IICA National Specialist for Saint Lucia, who provided technical support and guidance to CCIF, also shared his insights on the local project experience. In the upcoming months, the group will be focusing on having “a successful launch of the business so that we can showcase broadly what we’ve been able to accomplish through the support under the project, and then to get clientele, to develop markets and to start generating business,” outlined Mr. Theophile.

Saint Lucia and Tobago’s green business entrepreneurs in Paramin, Trinidad, having some some local cocoa and talking patois, as music from Canaries played in the background. Pouring the cocoa tea is Mr. Elijah Charlemagne (April 2023)

Background: previous knowledge of vetiver in Canaries, Saint Lucia

“We’ve really renewed interest in looking at these nature based solutions, and vetiver has been the flagship contributor in that regard,Mr. Theophile shared. 

“I think across the board everyone was intrigued and excited by the prospect of using a common commodity like vetiver,” remarked Mr. Theophile, “Almost everybody was familiar with vetiver, having seen it at some point or had some previous experience or knowledge about it. But what was astounding was the myriad applications that we focused on, and then the scientific and methodological approach that we took to developing those opportunities.” Vetiver has traditionally been used in Saint Lucia for land stabilization, according to Mr. Theophile, who shares that “a lot of the early road works would have featured vetiver installations along the roadside. Even driving down to the community of Canaries, you see a number of areas where vetiver was intentionally planted for that purpose.” Mr. Charlemagne, the project’s local Technical Coordinator, said that while he observed vetiver being utilised for handicraft in other communities on the island, he believes that this skill as well as the knowledge of Vetiver Systems (VS), was “not entirely existing within the community”. “It’s new to our community,” affirms Ms. Indy Simon, the Project Administrator.

Mr Jonathan Barcant of IAMovement outlines some technical site requirements at the Canaries Rivermouth location for the IAMovement Technical Assistant Mr David Henry and IICA Country Specialist Mr Brent Theophile, during the VEEP/VS Training programme undertaken in August 2021

Vetiver plant preparation activities are learned by the project participants during the VEEP/VS Training programme undertaken in August 2021

Challenges and motivations

The CBO shared a major and unexpected challenge they encountered in the community as they were doing the vetiver installations – a fear of snakes! “We have the ferdilus.. a snake, poisonous snake,” said Mr. Charlemagne, “Some persons believe that it would create the right habitat for them to come and be on the farm. So we have been educating them in terms of using natural repellents to keep them off, but also integrating it in a way where in areas that are prone to snakes, the spacing mechanism needs to change. Rather than creating closer hedgerows, we space them out… but definitely it’s something I would say would be changed as we go along.”

CCIF noted other challenges, including: the need for better preparedness for the extended dry and rainy periods; a lack of storage space for large-scale harvesting of vetiver grass; “brain drain” or instances of people leaving for more immediate job opportunities; a large enough office space; as well as all the proper tools, equipment and transportation. Despite these challenges, the CBO continues to work on moving forward and overcoming these issues. Their motivation: “Seeing our community go forward, we want a change,” according to Ms. Simon. “We want to be the group to bring change in the community,” she adds, “we want CCIF to be this organisation that would bring change and we don’t have to wait for government. That we can bring employment and continue to sustain the community and ourselves. So this is what that drives us.” Their efforts are focused on developing a sustainable income generator, to reach their mandate of “sustaining the livelihood of fellow members of the community,” according to Mr. Charlemagne, who believes firmly in their business potential.

Vetiver System (VS) installations being undertaken by project participant Mr Emmanuel Seraphin at the Anse La Raye Quarry during the IAMovement-led VEEP/VS training period in August 2021

Green business outcomes and opportunities

“In the case of Saint Lucia, I think what would stand out most in terms of the outcomes as compared to the other countries would be the extent to which the Green Business model has been designed and diversified,” Mr. Theophile remarked. Their approach in Saint Lucia was to focus on green business development from the onset,  he explained, “leveraging all the training and learning to support the development of those commercial functions being a key requirement from our partner CBO going into the project.” The CBO has already registered four green businesses. “We got the brand names, developed and developed new products around those, leveraging the training and the experience that the IICA-CBF project would have brought to bear,” said Mr. Theophile.

Noting that CCIF is essentially a community group, Mr. Theophile says, is a key element underscoring the business planning and thinking about the green business: “We spent a lot of time ideating and thinking about what this green business should be, what we wanted it to be and how it could be run, which is why it yielded this very diverse portfolio and diverse outlook.” CCIF’s cooperative approach to their green businesses is a unique project development so far across the participating countries. Mr. Charlemagne describes their group’s approach:

“All members that have been partaking within the different components would be shareholders of the different entities. So who have been trained in installation, thatched roofing, would be shareholders of ‘Canaries Green Enterprises’, and persons who have been trained in craft would be employed, shareholders of ‘Podwi Kanawii’. But generally, everybody are members of CCIF, which is the head body.”

Mr. Theophile noted that the CBO’s board of directors would provide oversight, ensuring that the business operation model keeps to the outlook for creating employment and opportunities for participation for persons from the Canaries community. The CCIF team further explained that the training and employment of over forty young people through the project has already been significantly impactful, as their community is considered one of the poorest on the island.

Veteran crafter Noella Alexander and Elijah Charlemage reviewing and selecting prototypes for CCIF’s craft brand (Photo: Brent Theophile, National Specialist, IICA St. Lucia)

The group has already made a presentation to the Ministry of Infrastructure, proposing vetiver installations for soil control and retention along with, or in lieu of hard engineering in different locations. “There is a good cost benefit, in the long term that will be of importance on a national scale,” said Mr. Charlemagne. The CBO hopes to explore other native species that could be incorporated as geo-engineering elements alongside vetiver. The group has already done land stabilization work with the Department of Forestry, with whom they shared their new knowledge and skills, according to Mr. Theophile, and have engaged other entities, such as WASCO, the local water and sewerage company. Mr. Charlemagne noted that their group also plans to extend their knowledge to schools and other community organizations, explaining, “We have a mandate to keep educating and sharing knowledge with the youth coming up and also the elders as well and with government in terms of getting more into somewhat green contributions from a national level towards vetiver and the work that we are doing.”

The CBO’s other green business plans involve farming production and eco-tourism. According to Mr. Charlemagne, “Canaries Eco Tour’, would be focusing on product development, creating tour components along (both) the farming component and Podwi Kanawii’s products, as well as marketing the community and merging with other existing agencies to create tour products, like the cocoa factory along with the waterfall; to create unique scenic products that can be of benefit to the community.”

A new nursery was established, and a work shed was also constructed through a “koudmen” (Creole: “community or helping hand”) organized by the Canaries community. The work shed will provide a shaded place to prepare and store vetiver and other potted plants, supporting CCIF’s green business enterprise that is centred on propagation of vetiver and other agriculture/landscaping planting material. At right – ‘bagging’ Vetiver slips at CCIF’s new nursery in Canaries. (Photos: EbA Project)

The community group intends to supply vetiver slips and seedlings from their nursery to neighbouring communities, having identified that there are presently no other seedling suppliers nearby. They also plan to leverage their commercial farm for coordinating with other farmers in the community, according to Mr. Theophile:

“So take, for example, the engagement on climate smart practices and climate adaptation that we would have done and was facilitated by both Dr. St. Martin and Mrs. Carrai, and then more recently by Richard Rampersaud, National Specialist in Trinidad. We got almost all farmers from the community on board for closer collaboration to look at better ways to improve water use, generate, procure and utilise and make available assets that can help enhance productivity as well as to further capacity building on climate smart practices and adaptation practices that are applicable for their small farms and for their farms situated in the hinterland on marginal lands… The establishment of the green business has also included consideration for how best to tie in and give support to the existing farmers and other private operators … I’m happy to note that in their thinking, and this is entirely from the team in Canaries that those ideas came from, that they’ve been keen to extend the benefit and to tie in the support that they’ve received to create new opportunities for other persons in the community. So I’m particularly happy with that as an outcome, specific to the Canaries community, it needs it.”

We have a very diverse portfolio, so it gives them multiple opportunities for income generation and for greater resilience of the whole initiative,” Mr. Theophile notes. Sharing more on the community’s business approach, Mr. Theophile said:

The project specified, and maybe initially had envisioned a green business or maybe one or two green businesses, but looking at the local economic environment, we noted that we needed to diversify the approach to that. So that’s a key reason as to why we have essentially four or five commercial centres being developed around this one green business exercise in Saint Lucia. And it’s the purpose of diversified income, having as many opportunities for creating employment, and then also to add to the resilience of the undertaking to enhance, well increase the likelihood for success going forward.”

Financial Literacy with CCIF team, facilitated by Ms. Junnel Lewis (March 2023); Training in the use of questionnaires for socioeconomic monitoring, facilitated virtually by UF’s Dr. Angelica Almeyda Zambrano (October 2022)

Mr. Theophile said that the time spent encouraging the empowerment of the core team and strengthening the organization’s internal governance structures was also critical to the project’s success and outcomes. He observes that CCIF’s core team has emerged “much more focused and technically capable, with the requisite skills, the requisite knowledge as well as are better assured of their support and how to access technical support to do the things that they want to do. And from a business development and entrepreneurship perspective, I think that that makes a world of difference.”

Members of the CCIF Core Project team Kenroy Charles and Elijah Charlemagne look out over a roadside vetiver installation in Font St Jacques, with project videographer Mr Lawrence Dupuis capturing footage in the background (November 2022)

Vetiver leaves dry for craft and thatching work at the Canaries Community Centre in November 2022


“I know in some cases in a number of cases, we’ve changed the outlook,” said Mr. Theophile, “I think initially people just thought of vetiver as this other grass, that if you keep it around, it will bring snakes, but now people are talking about vetiver as a crop, as a commodity, as something that would be worthwhile to put on their land.” The IICA National Specialist for Saint Lucia reports that through the project, they generated new excitement around utilizing vetiver, and more broadly, on utilizing local biodiversity to support economic development. Sharing his observations on the training components, he added, “The experience, through the very diverse capacity building and engagement activities that would have been undertaken by the project, really broadened people’s horizons. Persons learned everything from perfumery, developing signature scents, how to do engagements with tourists and visitors… To see, see the way that persons went from being hesitant to being fully enthralled in doing that work, I think that for me will remain a lasting memory.

Training in bath and body products (March 2023)

The previously completed training guided participants through developing signature scents for the bath and body product line, and also included a demo visitor engagement, where “persons that were trained over the previous two days facilitated and led people for a type of guided tour on aroma therapy, on signature scents, on what is the meaning and purpose behind vetiver essential oil, what are the benefits from it and guiding people to develop products with them,” according to Mr. Theophile. He reflects further, “To think that just two days prior, these people had no knowledge of any of this and by day three, they had the confidence to stand before their neighbours and friends in the community and to do that with confidence. So for me, that type of empowerment, I think, is at the heart of any meaningful work with community groups, which is the reason why we feel we feel very excited about the prospects for the work that we’ve done and the future prospects for seeing it grow.”

Mr. Charlemagne shares his thoughts on the interconnection between increased livelihood opportunities and the long-term sustainability of vetiver:

The employment definitely is a very good factor in terms of gravitating more persons towards the use and the importance that it (vetiver) can actually bring revenue towards their livelihoods and improving livelihoods. And with the continuous increase in the number of sites and the added value too, it has gained interest of further persons.”

According to Ms. Simon, the CBO has “received encouragement because some people have seen what the project has done for the community…seeing young people being involved and, you know, benefiting.” She also reflected, “I think they are looking forward to being employed and, you know, being part of the green business… There is this young lady in handicraft and she asked, ‘After that training, what happens?’ And I told her that it’s employment, that they would be the ones doing their craft so we can sell. And I think, you know, she was very excited about that.”

Projects participants learn about and work to construct A-frames to assist with Vetiver System (VS) contour demarcation and planting, during the VEEP/VS training and field implementation kick-off period in August 2021

Mr. Theophile is optimistic about the enhanced skills and expertise of the CBO. He says the group now has “a proper understanding of ecosystem-based adaptation measures, a renewed appreciation for biodiversity and how to utilize it for economic benefits,” and believes that they would therefore be better positioned to contextualise future applications to access funding opportunities that are available to groups like theirs. While acknowledging the project’s successes, Mr. Theophile also nods towards the need for continued training in the community and the creation of additional partnerships and support relationships. “One initiative is not going to suddenly solve all the problems or make everybody feel, feel that all the preexisting challenges are certainly of less significance or importance, but the spark of personal empowerment and creating new opportunities for autonomy and the ability to generate income means a lot,” he remarked, “That is for me a key thing that did not exist before this project intervention. And now, it’s there, and it’s generating meaningful results for persons.”

The CBO echoed the need for continued capacity building. Mr. Charlemagne noted:

“Knowledge is power and we’d like to empower our people, and also ourselves. So in that way, capacity building is a driving force and when someone has the power within their own self, then they will actually take action and with the knowledge, using it for good, we will actually achieve a sustainable community… We keep our network, building and connections so that we too can continue, and sustain further projects to enhance the community. There are a lot more areas within the community which we would like to put forward for further funding to help benefit the community.”

Residential Property Vetiver System (VS) installation for land stabilization visible at the roadside in Saint Lucia

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