MSETO ENVIRONMENTAL SELF HELP GROUP VETIVER GRASS PROJECT REPORT

by Deputy Chairperson Paul Mwadime (with U.S. RPCV Kenya Eric Jolliffe)

14 September, 2006

 

INTRODUCTION

I was introduced to vetiver grass by an American PCV (Peace Corps volunteer) named Eric Jolliffe in 2001 when we both lived in Sagalla, Kenya. I frequently assisted him with seminars and projects. We educated and trained self-help groups around the Taita Taveta District in Kenya about the many uses of vetiver grass and how TVS (The Vetiver System) could inhibit land degradation by reducing soil erosion. Most of the people attending these seminars were small-scale farmers (total land ownership of 2 acres or less). Upon learning about this previously unknown grass, they asked where and how they could procure it. Prior to 2001, there were only 3 or 4 people in Sagalla who owned vetiver grass. This grass was provided to them by a previous PCV named Emil Tauka who obtained vetiver grass from the Machakos, Kenya ICRAF (International Centre for Research in Agro forestry) in 1994.

 

In November 2001, Mr. Jolliffe & I were invited to make presentations at the Danida TTAP (Taita Taveta Agriculture Program) Building in Wundanyi, Kenya. At that time, this Danish NGO project was overseen by Mr. Peter Moller Christensen. Our presentations took place at the monthly meeting of FDA (Focal Development Area) Chairpersons which was fronted by Mr. Arthur Maindi who was the Sagalla Location Chairman. (This FDA system, which has since been discontinued, consisted of organized membership of small farmers based on the geographical “Locations” within the TT District.) Following our presentations, 4 out of 30 the Chairpersons in attendance asked when and where vetiver grass could be obtained and at what cost. They correctly anticipated that farmers in their locations would embrace it. Mr. Maindi, Mr. Moller, and Mr. Jolliffe organized a trip to the K.A.R.I. (Kenya Agro forestry Research Institution) located in Kisii, Kenya because that was the only place in Kenya, according to Eric’s research, where this grass could be purchased in large quantities. Upon returning from Kisii with a large load of vetiver grass in late November, the  4 FDA's distributed it to cost-sharing farmers. In Sagalla, 1220 of these vetiver grass slips were planted in the Latah Nursery which has since developed into a large local source for this grass. The Lwachase Nursery in Talio and the Mwarovo Nursery in Ndara were other sources in Sagalla started by donations from Mr. Esau Mwanganda (Esau won a TVN cash award in 2003, and is documented in SAVN Newsletter #11).

 

Shortly after the November presentations, I leased some fertile land in Sagalla “Mballoni” because I saw a local need to develop an intensively managed farm that would produce large quantities of quality crops. I purchased 394 slips or “splits” of vetiver grass for 5 KES (Kenya Shillings) each from Mr. Mwanganda. Esau was one of the 4 original Sagalla people supplied by Mr. Tauka, and had developed an impressive supply of vetiver grass over the years on his properties. I implemented TVS to improve and enhance growing conditions and site productivity. I also noticed that the research regarding vetiver’s function as an effective pathogen and insect deterrent proved to be true! For example, my sukuma wiki (a green leafy vegetable commonly mistaken for “collard greens” in the USA) was not exhibiting the decadence caused by local insects that have been causing significant damage and losses in Sagalla farms since time immemorial.

 

I decided to start a larger-scale commercial vetiver grass nursery. My purpose was to provide farmers with more local access to vetiver grass. By 2003, my farm in Sagalla had 900,000 vetiver grass splits, and I saw that this leased land was too small to accommodate more. So I decided to lease another piece of land astride the Voi River in Gimba located in Sagalla’s “Lower Zone.” In March 2004, Mr. Jolliffe and Dr. James Owino of Egerton University’s Department of Agricultural Engineering examined this piece of land. They agreed that this was an acceptable growing site with good proximity to water. Not only could I grow large amounts of this grass for production, but I could also implement TVS along the Voi River bank where erosion is a big problem.

 

Starting in May 2004, I started transferring the vetiver plants from my former land in Sagalla to my new land in Gimba where I continue to increase my growing stock. As of 2007, my land in Gimba has an estimated five million vetiver grass slips  and my land in Sagalla has an estimated three million slips. I reported my Gimba operation to the Voi Chief's Office On 1st June, 2004.

 

In 2005, I initiated the process of forming a self help group. My goal was to assist local farmers curb the problems of soil erosion, river bank erosion, gully cutting, erosion caused by free range grazing, erosion caused by the process of charcoal making and burning, and protection of the grass. Promoting and implementing TVS would accomplish these goals. Through organizing meetings and consulting with friends of the environment and farmers in the area, the idea was developed.

 

We held our first meeting on 28th February, 2006 with the local community. The agenda was:

1)    Election of Executive Board Members;

2)    Drafting of the group constitution;

3)    Registration of the group;

4)    Opening of the group account.

 

On that day, the members decided to adapt the consultation presented by Mr. Jamal Mohamed. We elected a board consisting of:

1)    Chairperson               Mrs. Chenya Kombo

2)    Deputy Chairperson  Mr. Paul Mwadime

3)    Secretary                   Mr. Jamal Mohamed

4)    Treasurer                   Mr. Arnold Mwamboko

5)    Vice Secretary           Ms. Laura Mghendi

 

The MEG (Mseto Environmental Self Help Group Project) consists of 25 members under the executive board. The group was registered on 10th May, 2006 by the Kenya Ministry of Gender, Sports, Culture, and Social Services. Our Registration Number is TTA/CD /2/5228. The MEG initiated this project in response to the philosophy of the self-help movement with the following group activities:

1. Establishing vetiver nurseries

2. Generating fodder

3. Stabilizing river banks

4. Producing manure (fertilizer)

5. Making thatch

 

The MEG is a member of the Voi-Vuma “umbrella” organization, and the Taita-Taveta Wildlife Forum.

 

 

THE GROUP CONSTITUTION

 

A) OBJECTIVES

1)    Keeping the environment clean.

2)    Improving the living standards of the community.

3)    Enhancing good health.

4)    Reclaiming or rehabilitating land.

5)    Purifying water.

6)    Reducing poverty.

 

B) GROUP MISSION

Our mission is to advocate and promote the use of vetiver grass in the local community, and to support the use of TVS by farmers throughout Kenya. Over time, this should stabilize the environment and create industries owned by the community for their own benefit.

 

C) VISION

Provide a cleaner and safer environment for future generations.

 

D) SIGNATORIES

We unanimously decided that two of the three board members (chairman, deputy chairman, treasurer) would sign cheques on behalf of the group

 

E) GROUP ACCOUNT

The MEG a/c is opened at KCB (Kenya Commercial Bank) in Voi

 

ORGANIZATION CAPACITY

Chairperson Chenya Kombo is the headmistress of a local provincial school, and has over thirteen years in administration. Secretary Jamal Mohamed is a CPA II (Certified Public Accountant) who is skilled with Microsoft Office Suite, and includes on his list of qualifications three NAO/CBO financial accounting certificates. Treasurer Arnold Mwamboko is also a CPA II who is skilled with Microsoft Office Suite and has over 7 years in financial management. Vice Secretary Laura Mghendi has over a decade of experience in hotel management. I (the Deputy Chairman) am a small farmer with over sixteen years of experience in agriculture.

 

LOCATION OF MSETO ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP

The group is based in Gimba which is located approximately 5 kilometers south of Voi town. We intend to open an office in Voi. Currently, our group can be contacted using the following addresses:

 

MSETO ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP

P.O. BOX 223

VOI, KENYA 80300

 

TELEPHONE OUTSIDE OF KENYA: 011-254-734-835029

TELEPHONE WITHIN KENYA: 0734-835029

E-MAI

 

PROJECT (ACTIVITIES ON THE GROUND)

TVS (The Vetiver System) is initiated by planting vetiver grass slips 10 to 20 cm apart along a contour (line of points with equal elevation). A continuous unbroken linear hedgerow will form in time, depending on local growing conditions, that physically stops and dams soil but allows water to pass through. This grass (scientific name Chrysopogon zizanioides) does not spread by seed because it is sterile; Instead it multiplies vegetatively allowing for easy control. It can be used for the following purposes:

 

Riverbank stabilization;

Terracing;

Flood control;

Composting manure;

Green pesticide (Organic);

Water purification;

Fodder and hay;

Thatch;

Handcrafts (i.e.: hats, baskets, etc.);

Vetiver nurseries;

Charcoal;

Soil moisture retention;

Soil productivity improvement;

Tea;

Detoxifying polluted soils;

Manure/Fertilizer.

 

We have applied TVS along 300 linear metres of the Voi River. The grass is responding very well on the riverbank. It is stabilizing the banks of this river and will contribute to water purification. The latter is important because on average, this river flows for two months each year. This flow can be described as a “brown torrent” caused by the high sediment load. The Voi area receives just over 1 metre of precipitation per year, most of which occurs during intense downpours: The result is high surface runoff into the river. TVS has also stabilized land during flooding, and increased land fertility (soil moisture retention).

 

We have used vetiver grass in the following ways:

1      Composting to obtain a manure possessing the same qualities found in artificial fertilizers such as CAN and DAP.

2      Distilling an effective pest repellent.

3      Absorbing toxic substances from water which purifies it for safe use.

4      Including it as feed for our goats and zero-grazing cows.

5      Thatching roofs.

6      Making handcrafts such as floor mats, lamp shades, hats, baskets, etc.

7      Establishing nurseries comprised of splits/slips for sale.

8      Making tea.

9      Producing two types of charcoal:

1)    Normal for cooking.

2)    Fragrant for repelling elephants when they come to farms.

 

This year we participated in the annual field day held at F.T.C Ngerenyi on 30th July, 2006.

 

VETIVER SALES

The total sales receipts from vetiver grass sales since the inception of MEG to the writing of this report adds up to 238,630.00 KES.

 

FURTHER RESEARCH

We want to start a website for MEG. We also want to train our vetiver technicians so that we can, in turn, train farmers how to properly use TVS for soil conservation.

 

We are looking forward to commencing production of many types of handcrafts for sale, opening our office in Voi Town, and putting all the information of our project onto the website, CD's, diskettes, and video cassettes.

 

PROMOTION STRATEGIES

1)    TVS will be introduced in areas that are conducive to its growth (i.e. along Voi River) so that its beneficial effects can be realized in the shortest possible time.

2)    Meetings will be organized at location and division/district levels to establish strategies on how to acquire, multiply and distribute vetiver among other groups/ farmers.

3)    Demonstrations, videos, and various presentations will be used to show the effectiveness of TVS.

4)    Field days will be organized where farmers can discuss TVS.

5)    Planting materials will be made available by establishing nurseries.

6)    Our extension staff will conduct training on TVS with farmers in the Taita/Taveta District.

 

CRITIQUES/PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED IN PROJECT

1.   TVS is proving to be a "hard sell" in this area, so there is a need for education.

2.   We currently have little funding for project expansion.

3.   Agricultural Extension Officers have been slow to accept TVS, and are therefore seldom discussing it with local farmers.

4.   It took three years for the Agriculture Minister to make changes to Ministry policy before we were able to collaborate.

5.   Many farmers in the Taita-Taveta district don't have any information about the use and importance of this useful grass.

6.   Poor promotion strategies and lack of support from the government has kept demand for vetiver grass low.

7.   Some marketers and sellers of vetiver grass have proven to be untrustworthy .

8.   There has been a disturbing amount of hostile and even subversive reactions to vetiver grass locally by some road engineers, water engineers/hydrologists, construction engineers/companies, conservationists, and environment-oriented NGO's.

9.   These road engineers, water engineers/hydrologists, & construction engineers/companies require education about TVS.

10. To expand, we will need more and better facilities e.g. farm implements and tools.

11. There is a lack of conservation spirit among the local community and our leaders.

12. We need to obtain a large scale planting site and demonstration area.

 

NB:

We have supplied vetiver planting materials to wei wei project in Kerio valley in Kenya, Baobab trust foundation in Mombasa Kenya, Kima integrated initiative project in western Kenya

 

Below are sample pictures of the project:

 

Vetiver on Voi river Bank

River water passing through Vetiver

Mountain view through Vetiver grass
Contour of Vetiver in the farm

Vetiver contour in Gimba vetiver Nursery.

 

CONCLUSION

We need to promote TVS and advertise vetiver grass locally and nationwide using media outlets such as KBC Radio, Radio Citizen, The Daily Nation, East Africa Standard, Taifa Leo, Nation TV, and others. We need to involve area Chiefs, D.O.'s, D.C.'s, and possibly M.P.'s. We would like to get onto the agendas of Chiefs' Barazas, conduct field trips, and have field days. We would eventually like to start a web site and open an office in Voi Town.

 

We would like to collaborate with government agencies and ministries such as Roads, Public Works, Agriculture and Environment. We are also reaching out to churches, prisons (inmate labor projects), schools, self-help groups, businesses, and (of course) small farmers.

 

In the past, we have donated vetiver slips to certain groups. We welcome collaboration with any donors who are "well-wishers" or have good intentions in this project.

 

 

Report composed by :

Paul Mwadime, Deputy Chairperson