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Founder of Vetiver Network International Dick Grimshaw Reminisces Connection Between Vetiver and India

Who else can tell the world better about vetiver than Mr Dick Grimshaw himself having worked throughout his life to transform the agriculture industry globally.

Aysha Anam
Founder of Vetiver Network International, Mr Dick Grimshaw. (Photo Courtesy: Agriculture World magazine)
Founder of Vetiver Network International, Mr Dick Grimshaw. (Photo Courtesy: Agriculture World magazine)

The man behind the inception of Vetiver Network International, Mr Dick Grimshaw, recollected his memory in Agriculture World magazine about how he developed a relationship with this all-in-one plant – vetiver in the 1980s when he came to India for a World Bank project, to work on watershed and got enlightened to learn about the qualities of vetiver grass.

Reminiscing the work he had done in India, he said that the bandhs were not effective and were expensive, while vetiver emerged as a saviour to conserve water. When he learned about how people in Fiji and other countries are making use of vetiver, he took a cue and used it as a biological barrier, as it could hold soil and conserve water. Moreover, it can remain effective "even after 50 years since establishment."

He went to India with John Greenfield, who later wrote a farmer's guide booklet on the uses of vetiver. "We also found that farmers in Kerala had been using vetiver for erosion control, livestock forage, and farm boundary demarcation for many countries," he said.

While the then government did not adopt these methods, private firms and NGOs knew how effective these are and were keen to participate. However, today, things have changed. “It has taken a long time, but I really feel that now is "Vetiver Time" for India and the world,” he said.

After the completion of the project in India in the 1980s, he got back to the US and disseminated information about vetiver as the head of the Agriculture Technical Department for Asia. Research in Thailand, Malaysia, and China, found that the root strength of vetiver is equivalent to one-sixth of mild steel and significantly improves soil sheer strength.

During the 7th International Conference on Vetiver (ICV-7), Mr Grimshaw appreciated the efforts being made by Krishi Jagran for creating awareness in the farming community in over 12 regional languages.

Although he travelled the world to spread the word about vetiver grass, he seconds with Mr. MC Dominic’s that the agriculture industry yearns for media exposure, “You are quite correct that promotion is critical,” he said.

Given that he shares a special bond with Indian soil, he was extremely grateful to Krishi Jagran for taking the responsibility of spreading knowledge amongst farmers in India. “You and your team have arrived just at the right time and could make a real difference and impact. Most of the critical support data for VS exists and is available, externally and from India,” he said.

The man who possesses an immense background in vetiver study and research as a subject, said, “The "how to" needs careful thought and good direction, and needs to be focused. We look forward to working with you where we can.”

Giving the baton of knowledge to Mr Dominic, he said, “Great presentation, and I believe sincere commitment by AW and INVN. This is just the beginning of a great new vetiver initiative. Thank you both.”

Plethora of Benefits of Vetiver

Although it is famous for being used in perfumes and medicines, the world did not know that it can "reduce soil erosion, reduce rainfall, improves soil moisture, reduces soil toxins, benefit soil microorganisms," Mr. Grimshaw said.

He also informed the Agriculture World magazine that vetiver has very strong and deep roots. When grown as a dense narrow hedge, vetiver can prevent erosion and soil loss from farms.

According to him, if vetiver is grown well, it can improve groundwater recharge and provide habitat for wildlife.

In different countries, vetiver started getting used for stabilizing highways, river banks, dams, and drains. It turned out to be very effective often 90 per cent less costly than hard structures.

It can also remove excess pesticides and herbicides from the soil. “It is also used for the treatment of contaminated wastewater and tertiary sewage effluent,” he said. While people in China use it to treat water from pig and fish farms, people in India should use it on the banks of villages and temples.

He mentioned excellent examples of how successful vetiver is, “In Ethiopia, it is used to treat effluent from coffee pulping mills. All these applications help keep river water cleaner.

“With the use of vetiver, there has been a major reduction in pesticide use by farmers covering 275000 hectares (2019) of rice in south China,” he said.

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