Vetiver Solutions

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Vetiver Solutions: Growing a Porverty Free Haiti, Starting at the Root

Minneapolis, United StatesBainet, Haiti
Year Founded:
2017
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Vetiver Solutions invests in communities by utilizing vetiver, a plant with an extensive root system that reduces erosion. We work with farmers to plant these living-plant barriers around crops using the Vetiver System, and then purchase the vetiver shoots to produce locally-sourced thread and yarn.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we could bring sustainable farming to communities with only a plant, saving both the planet and thousands of lives.
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In Haiti, 80% of people make their living from the agricultural sector. Years of being forced to emphasize immediate returns over sustainable planning have culminated in a serious threat to the nation’s environment: soil erosion. Soil erosion in Haiti is currently the most severe in the Western world. Soil degradation due to erosion in turn reduces crop yields, forming a destructive cycle, leading to low incomes and high rates of malnutrition.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Vetiver Solutions works to reverse the effects of on-farm erosion through the use of living-plant barriers. Vetiver is a tall grass whose extensive root network limit stabilizes soil to prevent erosion by as much as 100-fold, making vetiver the most effective living-plant barrier in the world. To incentivize farmers to plant vetiver along their crops, the shoots will be purchased from the farmers and converted into thread, which can be sold for profit. Currently, vetiver thread is not commercially produced and Vetiver Solutions is the first initiative to create vetiver fibers in a non-laboratory setting. Our market has the potential to expand from rural farmers in Haiti to those in developing countries across the world.

Awards

Acara Challenge Silver Prize, CommonBond Social Impact Award Semi-Finalist
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Ernest is a 58-year old farmer in Haiti who owns 2 acres of land. He tells me that 10 years ago it produced enough food for his entire extended family. Yet, now he is struggling to produce enough for himself and his kids. He tells me that he knew how to farm sustainably but could not afford to until Vetiver Solutions offered him an income by planting vetiver. With tears in his eyes, Ernest tells us that we saved his land, which had been in his family for generations, from degradation. By planting a hedge of vetiver along his crops, Ernest is preventing runoff and erosion. Every 6 months he harvests the shoots and Vetiver Solutions purchases a pre-determined amount, giving him a profit from this cropland while also preventing soil erosion.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We are currently nearing our completion of our pilot in Moreau, Haiti. During our pilot phase we are paying directly to the Farmer’s Association of Moreau, a group made up of 50 farmers. All 50 of these farmers have begun to plant vetiver along their crops and are sharing the profits equally amongst themselves. At 6 months after the pilot we plan to expand to a second village, adding another 50 farmers to Vetiver Solutions. Once Vetiver Solutions is in full operation, the funds paid for two vetiver harvests per year is estimated to make up at least 50% of a typical Haitian farmer’s current annual income. By continually taking soil metrics and collecting data on yearly crop yields, we can assess improvements in food production capabilities. We expect that within five years, farmers we work with will have improved their crop yields to a level of at least double the average in Haiti.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We plan to patent our processing method and hire locals to process the fibers, giving them another form of income. For future expansion, vetiver is a sterile plant that can be propagated at a 15:1 ratio. This allows us to rapidly expand if the market allows for it. This will depend on the demand for our yarn, which we are confident will increase once we have entered the market. We plan to market our fibers to large yarn companies and other NGOs, selling to them wholesale so we can focus on expansion. We plan to expand throughout Haiti and begin expanding to Latin America within five years.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We plan to continue our fundraising efforts over the next year. By the summer of 2018 we expect that we will begin to see net profits from our sales of vetiver fibers and yarn. Using conservative growth assumptions we expect to post earnings of $10,000 every 6 months beginning June 2018. Once we begin to make a net profit, we plan to maintain financial sustainability via continual sales of the vetiver fibers and thread.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

While the Vetiver System has been used in previous projects that successfully reduced soil erosion and alleviated poverty, these models have not been successful on a larger scale. Much of this is because no previous work has offered a profit from the vetiver directly, as well as a means to be financially sustainable. Vetiver Solutions is unique in that it offers Haitian farmers a way to grow vetiver profitably while also retaining the beneficial impacts of its root system, which are traditionally removed from the ground for oil production.
Team

Founding Story

In order to understand how we began, we must go back to when Jesse traveled to Haiti for the first time. Volunteering at a hospital in Port-Au- Prince, Jesse’s life was changed in just one short week. During that time, Jesse saw countless illnesses and deaths due to the poverty and malnutrition that is devastatingly prevalent in Haiti. Returning home, Jesse was determined to do something to help prevent further unnecessary suffering from these causes. Taking a Grand Challenge Course with his friend, the two of them began brainstorming how to help. Little did they know, but another member of the class, Dalton had similar experiences on his trip to Haiti. As soon as all three of the members came together, Vetiver Solutions was born.

Team

Jesse’s primary role is as the team leader. Upon his return from Haiti, he plans to commit full-time. Elizabeth Alonzi is seeking her degree in bio-products and bio-systems engineering. She brings experience from her work in agricultural development with Land O’Lakes and USAID in Kenya and Rwanda. Dalton Schutte is a recent graduate with a degree in Math. His main responsibilities are financial analysis, market analysis, and profit modeling.