Vetiver in the Cook Islands: Researching Alternative Solutions to Waste Water Management, Erosion Control, and Slope Retaining for Rarotonga.
A Kirkwood, J Flanagan, 2019.
Compiled by Andy Kirkwood and Justine Flanagan.
Contact: [firstName] @ islandbooth.com.
This page is a working draft: updated 23 May 2019. It provides background information and links to research about vetiver grass and the Vetiver System.
From 2017— Rarotonga, Cook Islands is the site of a number of large-scale transformative infrastructure projects, including water supply and disinfection, roading, drainage, waste-water management and treatment. How we approach these projects will have a long-term impact on the health of our community — and the health of our island.
Vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides L.) is a fast-growing, deep-rooted plant that has been used internationally as a low-cost, environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional ‘hard’ engineering solutions. The grass is the foundation of the Vetiver System (VS), researched methods to address a wide-range of agricultural, infrastructure, and environmental management challenges.
Vetiver was introduced to the Cook Islands to the island of Atiu as a source of perfume for massage oil , then propogated in response to siltification of the central fresh water source. . It has also been used as erosion control in the makatea (fosilised coral) islands of Mangaia, Atiu, Mauke and Mitiaro .
In the capital island of Rarotonga:
The way that vetiver grows make it suitable for a range of uses.
Barriers to the uptake of the Vetiver System may be its origin, and how information about the plant has been disseminated.
Vetiver grass is native to India. From the mid-1980s the World Bank encouraged research into uses of plant; to enable tropical and semi-tropical developing nations to address agriculture and infrastructure challenges.
Research and implementation of the Vetiver System was furthered by non-government organisation The Vetiver Network (now The Vetiver Network International). Vetiver Network publications such as Vetiver Grass – A Hedge Against Erosion (PDF) are practical guides written for fieldworkers and farmers .
Although the plant and its application has been extensively researched, it is often lesser-known by civil engineers from temperate, First World countries.
At the same time, urbanisation and changes in government policy can result in a loss of community-knowledge. In Fiji, vetiver-hedges were introduced in 1956 to retain soil and as moisture control . In the 70s and 80s the Fiji government priority shifted from land conservation and the use of vetiver; to farming of sloping land for export. Local knowledge and use of vetiver declined.
Climate change impacts due to shifting sea-levels and changing weather patterns — along with the scale of such impacts — now make necessary investigation of low-cost sustainable biological solutions such as the Vetiver System.
Classification/subjects: vetiver grass, Chrysopogon zizanioides, coastal protection, coastal erosion, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, South Pacific islands, climate change, flooding, Mei Te Vai Ki Te Vai, waste water treatment, effluent, septic systems.
Infrastructure Cook Islands has formed separate teams to manage large-scale infrastructure projects.
Vetiver plant biology, application and planting methods.
Updated: 23 May 2019.