Taking a grassroots approach to soil protection and flood control
Port of Spain, November 7, 2019 (IICA) – IICA, the MALF, VetiverTT and the IAMovement are joining forces to demonstrate a grassroots approach to combat the adverse impacts of climate change. Trinidad and Tobago is currently in the rainy season. Farmers, particularly those in flood-prone areas, are still recovering from the effects of Tropical Storm Karen on September 22. They are also anticipating and bracing for possible flooding incidents in November and December. The Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries (MALF) has named flooding as the number one risk for the local agricultural sector.
In his remarks to Caribbean Delegates one week ago, at the Inter-American Board of Agriculture (IABA) of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) in San Jose, Costa Rica, the MALF Minister, Senator, the Honourable Clarence Rambharat confirmed that “risk management is the foundation of discussions on crop insurance, business interruption insurance, coverage for loss of profits and for infrastructural damage”. The Minister also recognized IICA’s role as leading the way ‘in supporting the development of the Disaster Risk Management Plan for Agriculture’.
In this climate change reality, the Minister calling for greater focus on impact, and development of mitigation, preparedness and response plans. One such mitigation response promoted by the Minister is the establishment of a Vetiver System (VS) demonstration site along the perimeter of the MALF Head Office in Chaguanas. In the midst of responding to the rain-induced landslides along the North Coast Road in July 2019, Minister Rambharat indicated to the IICA representative in Trinidad and Tobago, Diana Francis, that “I am going to do a vetiver project along the new roads by the Ministry to show them the value of grass”.
Grass has value? Why grass? Why vetiver? The wide ranging benefits of vetiver grass, including rehabilitation of spent quarry sites, are well documented and are being promoted by VetiverTT Ecological Engineering Solutions Ltd and the IAMovement. Vetiver’s root system in particular, is very fibrous and strong to catch and hold the soil, thus protecting against erosion. The very strong and deeply rooted grass, extending to 10-13 ft. within 2 years, enables the vetiver to resist flood waters and survive deep water flow. Its deep roots can also provide important and much needed stabilization to slopes at risk of slippage. Vetiver is also highly drought-tolerant and bush-fire resistant and when used in agriculture, provides a great source of mulch biomass for soil moisture retention and topsoil rebuilding.
IICA is co-financing the establishment of a Vetiver System (VS) demonstration plot as slope stabilization for drains outside of the MALF Head Office, together with the Vetiver TT, IAMovement and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Lab supported 'Building on Vetiver!' project. Site preparations started yesterday and barring adverse weather, planting is expected to be completed by Friday 8 November. Jonathan Barcant, co-founder and Managing Director of IAMovement and a civil engineer specialized in soils and the Vetiver System (VS) states that "vetiver grass is a simple and cost-effective tool for building climate resilience in rural communities, by helping persons tackle many soil and water related challenges. Just as mangroves are known by all as a climate smart solution for coastlines, vetiver ought to be known as an excellent and low cost climate adaptation solution for the land".
As stated by Manuel Otero, Director General of IICA at the IABA, “we cannot make progress on our own; strategic partnerships are crucial to improving the quality of life and well-being of rural dwellers across the Americas.”
Ms. Francis confirmed that as part of IICA’s focus on climate change, natural resources and risk management, “we are becoming more involved with grassroots organizations, such as, IAMovement”. IICA and IAMovement recently collaborated on a project aimed at strengthening coastal and marine climate resilience through community engagement and ecosystem-based adaptation solutions in upland rural watersheds. This project, funded by the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF), includes establishing the Veitiver System (VS) and will be implemented in four Caribbean countries in 2020.
IICA Delegation in Trinidad and Tobago