Vetiver, a deeply rooted grass with tall stems and long thin leaves is considered very effective in controlling coastal erosion in Vanuatu.
The Department of Agriculture (DoA), through the Vanuatu Coastal Adaptation Project (VCAP), is introducing vetiver grass to communities to prevent soil erosion from upper land polluting polluting marine lives.
Many villages at the coast depend on their shell and fish for protein.
Coral reefs are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change as rising sea temperature due to the heat observed by the ocean.
Rainfall, once soaked into the vegetated ground, flows directly to runways, rivers and coastal water depositing pollutants.
With its rooting system, vetiver acts as a filter to help soak water into the soil other than flowing directly into the sea.
Vetiver roots can grow 3 metres deep than some trees, said the VCAP Upland Technical Coordinator, Pakoa Leo.
It can also be planted on slopes, along road sides and around water systems
According to Leo, vetiver grass is drought tolerant.
“Because its roots grow vertically, they cannot compete with neighboring plants for water and nutrients.
“The seeds once fallen or flown away cannot grow so there is no danger of the grass spreading from where it is planted.
“Vetiver can grow tall (height can be maintained by pruning) and can stand for decades,” said Leo.
Using vetiver to hedge soil erosion is cheaper than a sea wall which is expensive to rebuild if it happens to be destroyed in a disaster, said Leo.
It is less edible for animals which is a good thing too, he added.
Vetiver can benefit farmers in other ways apart from stabilizing soil and protecting it against erosion.
Leo said its leaves can be used for thatch and its roots can be extracted to make oil and perfume like in some countries around the world.
The DoA also encourages communities to grow other native plants such as purple beach bean, beach vitext, and maunaloa and beach morning glory against coastal erosion. ‘Pandanus’ and ‘natangura’ also act as wind shield
Vetivr demonstration plots are established on Pentecost, Epi and Santo as part of VCAP. The same thing will happen on other project sites.
The DoA have also planted vetiver grass on Aneityum where there has been a successful rate of mitigating soil erosion. Leo says it helps to grow back vegetation in eroded slope sides, improve the landscape of the coast, reviving the stock of sea shells.