To tame moving sands in drought-ridden regions, the authorities sometimes set up massive gridlike networks of palm fronds. Each frond is laboriously cut from a palm and dug into the dunes. If vetiver can survive here, it would probably be more effective. This deeply rooted plant is unlikely to be blown over. It can rise up to match sand accumulations and is thus unlikely to be buried. It also resists grazing, even by goats. This grass, which can be taller than these fronds being planted in Tunisia, might prove to be practical for protecting foot tracks, roads, railways, canals, villages, houses, forests, and other facilities from blowing sand.

Further, in areas such as West Africa, vetiver's strong but resilient foliage should make an excellent windbreak. Farmers might find it especially valuable because the winds rise with the onset of the rains, and fine sand blowing across the surface of the land often buries crops before their seedlings can even get a grip on life.

Of course, the climate in this area is very different from that where vetiver is best known. Despite the moisture in the dunes, the plant is quite likely to fail. However, a vetiver relative (Vetiveria nigritana) is native to Africa. It, as well as other tall native grasses, may prove better. (Photo: FAO)



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