TRICON, HAITI – Pierre Sonore earns an income toiling in the rolling grass fields of rural Tricon.
For decades, small-scale farmers in this area of Les Cayes, a borough in southern Haiti, have been growing vetiver, the country’s most valuable agricultural export. Sonore started when he was just 17 but quickly found that farming the perennial plant known for its fragrant, high-quality oil was a high-stakes activity.
Vetiver is harvested by digging the whole plant out of the ground, he says, a practice that has led over time to soil degradation and erosion. With rich topsoil gone, vetiver cultivators in Haiti’s southwestern hillsides worry that they may no longer be able to grow and sell the plant to feed their families. But UniKode, one of the country’s leading vetiver oil producers, is working with 13 farming cooperatives to enhance the harvesting process.
Sonore, now in his early 30s, belongs to one of them. He says members of Coopérative des Producteurs de Vétiver de Tricon (COPVET) are learning how to use natural erosion-control barriers to transform what has long been parched, rutted turf into fertile grounds teeming with tall bunches of brown-green vetiver grass.