Vetiver 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