Vetiver is native to parts of India, but has been grown and farmed in Haiti for many years, with extracts from the root of the plant being used by cosmetic ingredients suppliers for a range fragrance and some skin care applications.
Named Vetiver Together, the project aims to: “sustainably improve food security, increase yields, and diversify income, while working to support women’s empowerment and environmental conservation”, the partnership team stated in a press communication.
Working with IFF as a supplier, Unilever focuses uses vetiver oil as a fragrance, formulating it with a range of its deodorants, including the popular Axe and Impulse brands.
Haiti as a major supplier of vetiver oil
Haiti has emerged as a major supplier of vetiver biproducts, mainly because it is known to produce some of the highest quality oils, which are supplied worldwide.
It is also a very important source of income in a country that has limited economic development. This situation leaves Haitians with limited means of income, which means vetiver production is often the main source of income for many families and communities.
“IFF relies on small farming communities for many natural products. These farmers, their families, and communities are an important part of our supply chain,” said Andreas Fibig, Chairman and CEO of IFF.
The challenges of vetiver production in Haiti
One of the issues with production in Haiti is that economic pressures force many farmers to harvest the vetiver roots too early, leading to poor yields and lower quality oils.
On top of this vetiver the deep roots of the vetiver grass are also one of the best means of preventing erosion, so if the plant if the harvesting is not carried out in stages and the root is pulled out of the ground too early it can also lead to soil erosion and deforestation .
The partnership, which also includes the collaboration of Oxfam Great Britain, Heifer International and the Ford Foundation, aims to address this issue by providing comprehensive training to community members, focused on enhancing crop and livestock production, soil conservation and nutrition with the goal of improving efficiency and productivity on the vetiver farms.
“Sustainability is integral to how we do business at Unilever – we aim to enhance the social and economic livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers in our supply chain,” said Dhaval Buch, Chief Procurement Officer of Unilever.
“Creating a more resilient supply chain is essential to make real impact on the ground. Partnerships, like Vetiver Together, are instrumental if we are to achieve the level of systematic change that is necessary across industries and supply chains.”