In the 1930s, the perfume industry introduced Vetiver grass to Haiti. Surprisingly, Vetiver can grow amidst Haiti’s harsh conditions, even in areas where nutrient-deficient soil makes it difficult to grow food. Today, the Vetiver root produces a complex essential oil, used commonly for fragrances.
For Vetiver farmers in Haiti, harvesting and producing Vetiver oil is a labor-intensive process. After allowing the roots to mature for 16 to 18 months, farmers must dig the plant out of the ground and beat any excess dirt out of the roots—leaving only the pure Vetiver root. Farmers gather 500 bales of Vetiver to fill 20-foot stills, which will produce one gallon of oil once it is harvested. Using this system, it takes most farmers roughly two weeks to produce a single gallon of Vetiver oil—that’s with five farmers working for about 15 days to complete the process.
Due to a struggling economy and natural disasters in years past, many Haitian farmers can barely make a living from their Vetiver plots. Some of the lowest income families of Haiti live in the foothills, where the depleted soil doesn’t allow any food to be grown—making Vetiver the only source of income for many families. Though Vetiver should be harvested during the dry season, many farmers are in need of immediate cash, which causes them to harvest the Vetiver before it is fully mature, leading to a lower quality oil grade. Because of the nature of the Vetiver harvest season, farmers only receive payments during limited months of the year, and often don’t receive payment for their work at all. Although it is strenuous work, harvesting Vetiver does not provide growers with a steady stream of income throughout the year, as they struggle to feed their families, provide clothing, or send their children to school.
Aside from a lack of stable income, there is also the issue of disorganization among small scale farmers in Haiti. There is plenty of potential for farmers to make a profit within the Vetiver market, however, without proper organization and sharing of knowledge between growers, much of that potential is lost. Since some farmers don’t know the correct time to harvest Vetiver, they can’t produce the high-quality oil that buyers want. The Vetiver farming system also lacks organized personnel to ensure that the farmers receive fair and favorable payment for the roots they harvest.
doTERRA’s Co-Impact Sourcing Initiative in Haiti
doTERRA International launched a Co-Impact Sourcing Initiative in the Haitian commune of Les Cayes, by starting a cooperative for raw materials. The Co-Impact Sourcing Initiative in Haiti aims to solve the issue of disorganization among farmers, by forming cooperatives for growers in the area. These cooperatives provide training for growers, which will allow them to produce high-quality Vetiver oil. With the help of an exclusive distiller partner, doTERRA also established a fair payment schedule for the farmers, allowing them to receive payment during all stages of production—planting, pre-harvest, and harvest.
Healing Hands Foundation Involvement
The doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation has provided an official Vetiver office in Les Cayes, which allows members of the cooperative to gather for trainings and discussions, and a Vetiver warehouse, which provides a safe place to store harvested Vetiver and necessary equipment. With a common meeting point, harvest collection and delivery times will improve, allowing the growers to receive premium payment for their high-quality oil.
Through the Co-Impact Sourcing Initiative in Haiti, doTERRA and the Healing Hands Foundation strive to ensure that Vetiver farmers in Les Cayes receive fair payment, training and education, and help from other growers to produce high-quality Vetiver oil.