The use of Vetiver Grass to improve sustainable agriculture in the Virgin Islands

Project Overview

Project Type: Education Only
Funds awarded in 2024: $49,999.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2026
Grant Recipients: Paradise Farm; UVI Agricultural Extension; Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture; USDA/NRCS; We Grow Food; Mr Burton
Region: Southern
State: U.S. Virgin Islands
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Laura Martin
Paradise Farm
Monica Prosper
Prosper Foundation


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

The USVI agriculture census of 2018 (NASS,2018) showed that there
were 500 farms, agricultural acreage and total sales had doubled
over the previous decade, but the sales/acre had significantly
decreased. The cause of the decrease could reflect the continuing
drought and decreased productivity.

Farming in the USVI is challenging because of the mountainous
topography, stony soil, periods of inadequate and overabundant
water, ongoing drought, and the small size of farms. These
conditions are powerful barriers to improving crop productivity
which can also be severely limited by soil degradation. 33% of
the world's soil is degraded, and in the tropics this is most
likely higher. (Mbagwu,2004) Primarily this is due to erosion by
water. (SWSR,2015).  Many areas of the Caribbean are defined
as having highly erodible soil. This is based on several factors,
one of which is the effect of rainfall on the amount of erosion
and this has been calculated as the erosivity index.
(Panagos,2017) The erosivity index in the Caribbean is 4 times
higher than the global average. 

The Caribbean is particularly vulnerable to climate change and
extreme events. These events which include drought, flooding, and
hurricanes severely impact farming. In 2017 the USVI sustained
severe damage from two category 5 hurricanes, and currently they
are experiencing a drought of severe to extreme magnitude. Prior
to the 1980s moderate drought occurred every 13-14 years. But in
the past 2 decades it has occurred every 3-4 years with the
current drought leading to a decreased water table.
(Drought,2018) Agriculture is devastated by drought as it leads
to decreased crop yields and crop and livestock loss.
Implementing the use of the Vetiver System can help reduce the
impacts of drought as it improves the retention of water and
decreases water runoff.

 Vetiver System is the use of vetiver
grass for erosion control, water conservation, slope
stabilization, and increased soil carbon sequestration. It is
used in over 100 countries and has been proven to improve
agricultural sustainability and quality of life. It can adapt to
a wide variety of soil types and tolerates both drought and
standing water. Vetiver is noninvasive, and the roots form an
interlocking matrix that extends up to 9 feet below the surface.
It is this characteristic that allows it to be planted in
hedgerows along a contour to form a bioterrace, reduce erosion,
increase water infiltration, retain nitrogen and phosphorous, and
stabilize the soil. (Vetiver,n.d.)

This project will provide in person learning for 100 farmers and
interested staff over a two-year period through conferences to
allow them to gain knowledge about the use of Vetiver Grass. A
smaller cohort will also have an opportunity to use it on their
farms to reduce erosion, improve water conservation, and develop
a more sustainable agriculture business. By offering teaching,
demonstration farms, mentoring, and hands-on experiences this
project intends to teach, train, and guide farmers in the use,
propagation, and maintenance of Vetiver Grass and to demonstrate
how this use can decrease external inputs and increase their

Project objectives from proposal:

  1. Partner with DOA, UVI Extension, and USDA/NRCS to establish
    process for outreach and follow-up communication. Contact farmers
    and schedule 10 presentations on the use of vetiver in St Thomas
    and St Croix
  2. Establish with DOA a vetiver nursery. For experiential
    teaching and as a source of plant material for the farmers and
  3. Write the curriculum to be presented and the goals for the
    hands-on experience.
  4. Recruit 6 farmers from the 3 islands to commit to the use of
    the Vetiver System. Schedule sessions at the nursery for
    training. The farmer will be provided with planting material to
    begin planting hedgerows.
  5. Schedule farm visits to view and case manage any problems.
    Add 6 additional farmers for training and plantings.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.