The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Conservation Fund’s farmland restoration project designed and implemented by Hand2Earth has extended their North Leeward vetiver project to set up sustainable contour farming in Belle Isle Correctional Facility.
Prison Officer Kevly Gould, of Spring Village, and 14 prisoners from the Belle Isle Correctional Facility were trained in vetiver systems technology three weeks in August 2022.
Prison authorities then identified an area to set up a vetiver nursery and farm in the prison grounds. A nursery of 300 plants and several contours were planted with vetiver. Crops were then planted in between, enabling the sloping lands to be cultivated sustainably by preventing soil loss.
Apart from the training, the SVG Conservation Fund/Hand2Earth project donated hand tools, waterboots, seeds and vetiver plants for the project which has expanded to become an exemplary vetiver systems farm site.
The 1.5-acre plot is a prime demonstration site for soil regeneration and eco-agricultural practices that directly link to St. Vincent’s agri-heritage.
Hand2Earth said the Belle Isle area was traditionally covered in productive farms terraced with vetiver grass.
This project has enabled the prisoners to put their training into practice and experience the benefits of farming with vetiver to reintroduce the practice of terrace farming to the area, and also to practice the system when they leave prison.
Just three months after its inception, the vetiver farm provided a valuable contribution to sustainable farming practices at the prison was supplying the prison kitchen with a wide range of vegetables, including tomatoes, okras, egg plant, lettuce, watermelon, sweet peppers and carrots.
Officer Kevly Gould said he was proud of the dedication prisoners have shown to the project. “My team [of prisoners] has motivated me to expand the project from its initial area to what we have now. The enthusiasm they have shown shows the benefits of learning new skills that will assist them when they come out of prison. We are really reaping the benefits in healthy produce for the prison kitchen.”
The project uses local neem and other natural pesticides on the farm. The insect repellent properties of vetiver grass also provide for healthier crops. Despite the dry season having set in, the farm area is green and well-irrigated with adequate ground water retained by the vetiver root system
The prison vetiver farm has received three visits from farmers from Petit Bordel, Troumaca, Rose Bank and Coulls Hill to exchange experiences of working with vetiver systems in their farms.
This is part of Hand2Earth’s community education activities of scheduled guided tours of project vetiver farm sites.
Acting Superintendent of Prisons Dwayne Bailey said:
“The vetiver farm project is one of our rehabilitation programmes that has really benefited the inmates, producing vegetables that have gone directly to their diet. The visits by local community groups to the prison farm where prisoners interact with community members and learn from them as we as share knowledge has benefited them tremendously. This has helped them feel part of something bigger than themselves and engineer a spirit of self-worth. Vetiver grass can also be harvested for the prison craft program which is another program that has added value to the prisoners’ lives. I want to thank Ms Roudette who has spearheaded the programme and look forward to working along with her to benefit the inmates at His Majesty’s Prisons and to benefit the society as a whole.”
Vonnie Roudette, Hand2Earth’s Project Manager said:
“We are delighted to expand this community project to partner with H.M. Prisons in reclaiming the practical knowledge that enabled farmers to supply the region with agricultural produce in former times through productive contour farming. This natural way of stabelising farmland and enriching the soil is timely as we work together to build healthy food systems in SVG.”
Hand2Earth is a locally-based NGO that partners with communities to bring local knowledge and experience to bear on eco-based solutions for soil restoration, “eco-ivelihood” creation and sustainable use of natural resources.