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

Vetiver Solutions invests in communities by utilizing vetiver, a plant with an extensive root system that reduces erosion.

Photo of Jesse Abelson
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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

Vetiver Solutions

Year founded

2016

Initiative stage

  • Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $1k - $10k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 50 - 100

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • United States of America

Headquarters location: City

Minneapolis

Location(s) of impact

Haiti: Bainet, Moreau, Mocca

Website

www.vetiversolutions.org

Facebook URL

www.Facebook.com/VetiverSolutions

Problem: What problem is this initiative 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 Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

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.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

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.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

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.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

We offer farmers a way to grow vetiver profitably while retaining the benefit of the root system.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

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.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Ashoka page or contact

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 33.3%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 0%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 0%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 66.7%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

2. Innovation

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 33.3%

3. Social and/or Environmental Impact

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 66.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

4. Financial sustainability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 50%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 100%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

5. Potential to Scale / Replicability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 66.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

6. Organizational Leadership

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 66.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

7. Potential for Creating Shared Value

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 66.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

2 comments

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Photo of Sage Lancaster

Hi Jesse. This is such a great project and I so enjoyed learning about it. Looking at a core cause of poverty in Haiti, and building your project focusing at that level is essential. You are definitely creating shared value here, with the vetiver providing for your organisations financial stability as well as income for farmers (double the benefits!). You seem to have really thought this through and created a great model that is sure to succeed. I wish you all the best success!

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