Sunday, September 2, 2007

OT, sort of : Terraces and Vetiver Grass

This post is a little off topic, but this photo begs to be published. I've said this before, but readers should know that to enlarge photos for better viewing, they can click on the photo.

There are several points of interest. The first is the terrain itself. It's usually decscribed as mountainous. These aren't the rockies, but if you're carrying water or anything else on your back, or as is the custom there, on your head up these hillsides, they qualify as mountains. You'll also notice that there are no trees. The trees that used to cover these mountain sides have been cut and used for the most part to make charcoal. Much of Haiti's population, estimated to be as high as 8.7 million, uses charcoal to cook three meals a day. That's a lot of people demanding a lot of charcoal, in a small country, resulting in mountains denuded of any vegetation of any size. Haiti also enjoys periodic torrential rains as a result of passing tropical weather systems, ranging from tropical depressions to hurricanes. Over the years, these rains have carried away feet of topsoil, flushing it into the Caribbean Sea. One of the activities pursued by CODEP is erosion control in the form of terraces, or contour ditches. You can see one new terrace in the left foreground of the photo. The basin in the center of the terrace catches and conserves rain. The berm that forms the downhill lip of the terrace has been planted with Vetiver grass. This grass can form a dense hedge along the contours that hold and stabilize the soil, and filter the the rain water, preventing further erosion.

Photo Credit: Rick Land

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