Vetiver Grass project spreads its roots into sustainability and conservation
The vetiver grass mat and basket construction project has expanded from just rehabilitating prisoners to assisting with land stabilization and the provision of raw material for the project.
The project is now in its second and third phases which include the planting of the grass in a nursery type setting and creating employment for the farmers involved.
Vonnie Roudette, who started the vetiver grass programme at Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) in 2015 said the start-up phase of the vetiver nursery and its maintenance is funded by the St Vincent and the Grenadines Preservation Fund (SVGPF).
Roudette says that the planting of the grass, which is taking place in Hog Hole, Penniston, fits into the SVGPF’s focus on the adoption of more sustainable farming methods.
In addition to providing prisoners and ex-prisoners in the grass programme with a supply of grass, the vetiver grass stabilizes the land and reduces erosion.
“Part of what we want to do to is spread awareness of the good use of the grass in land stabilization and conservation because the grass has a root system that goes three metres into the soil.
“So, we plant on banks as it is effective in holding up banks that would erode in heavy rain,” explained Roudette who added that they chose the piece of land at Hog Hole to start the first nursery as there is serious erosion because of bad farming practices.
“We want to work with former inmates to maintain the nursery and create employment and we may well be selling the shoots depending on the demand.”
She said the former inmates would not pay for the shoots.
She asked members of the public to identify places where they can plant more grass.
This first nursery will take about 10 months to start supplying grass and Roudette said that they will also be planting crops in between the grass as it has been proven that the grass can help increase crop yield about 30 to 50 per cent because the roots retain a lot of water and can filter out impurities in the soil.
The nursery is being implemented by Hand to Earth, a registered Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO). Hand to Earth works on social development projects. Persons who want to offer lands should email [email protected]
Officer and supervisor of the grass programme at HMP Glenroy Browne praised the nursery and the HMP’s vetiver grass mat and basket construction project on Monday.
He said that while there is a high rate of recidivism at the HMP, so far, the men who were involved in the programme and have left prison, have not come back up to this point.
Over 39 men who were involved the project have left prison.
The vetiver grass initiative has been documented by filmmaker Aiko Roudette in an 11-minute film called The Grass Men. Another partner of the project is the Mustique Charitable Trust. The initial vertiver grass training project at HMP was sponsored by the Food and Agricultural Organization.