A visit by vetiver-based business green businesses from Antigua (Wadadli) to the origins of their raw material in Dominica (Waitukubuli) affirms the importance of community engagement for grass-roots solutions, in order to encourage a change in perspectives and highlight practices for building self-reliance and resilience. This is so both within and across communities, especially those involved in similar sustainable livelihood activities.
June Jackson, Director of the Gilbert Agriculture Rural Development Centre (GARDC), and Cheryl Samuel, member of the Antigua and Barbuda Network of Rural Women Producers/Agro-Processors and owner of Bajez Soaps, got the opportunity to be part of a peer-to-peer exchange to Dominica between June 8 and 11, 2023. They were accompanied by Technical Specialist, Craig Thomas, of IICA Antigua, and Barbuda and hosted by Technical Specialist Kent Coipel of IICA Dominica.
A must-stop in the visit was to the Kalinago territory, the source of the 6,500 vetiver grass plantlets exported to Antigua roughly two years ago, under the IICA-CBF EbA project.
These plants seeded two vetiver nurseries in Antigua, the first of their kind, to propagate vetiver grass for green engineering works in the Cooks Landfill and provide raw material for green craft, bath, home, and body value-added products.
The trio from Wadadli toured the all-female group managing the vetiver nursery in Dominica and received first-hand testimony of the importance of the vetiver grass for the Kalinago peoples for community-based sustainable land management and livelihoods.
Their visit with local crafters was particularly inspiring, as they marveled at the range of vetiver-crafted mats, bags, and hats. And of course, the opportunity was taken to gift back vetiver products made in Antigua, such as an assortment of soaps, pillow mist, and incense from the Dominica grass, as proof of the business potential of the vetiver products as a growing niche industry in the Caribbean.
The Wadadli-Waitukubuli vetiver community visit wrapped up by exchanging lessons learned in promoting green business product development, entrepreneurship, and business establishment and marketing.
The discussion on ideas for unique approaches to product development, product branding, and most importantly the business mindset, especially working within a community group, was not only valuable for the interest and information generated, but more so, for the networking opportunities that could be expanded between these two communities.
With its focus on youth development, GARDC’s June Jackson encouraged the local group to include and involve youth as much as possible, and to take advantage of their innovation and use of social media platforms for business visibility and marketing.
This community exchange was part of the IICA-CBF project “Strengthening Coastal and Marine Climate Resilience through Upland and Coastal Ecosystem-Based Adaptation and Community Engagement” being implemented in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Lucia, and Tobago, funded under the CBF EbA Facility, financed by the Government of Germany, German Development Bank (KfW) with resources from the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety.