threatened; hundreds of thousands are infested each year. And today, nothing can be done. When striga breaks out, farmers abandon their land. Some of the most productive sites now lie idle—victims of this abominable sapsucker.
Vetiver is a member of the same subtribe of grasses as sorghum and maize, and it may prove to be a sacrificial barrier to the spread of striga. Alternately, the oils in its roots may suppress this powerful parasite that does its dirty work underground. Sucking in a dose of vetiver oil may be enough to do it in.
In Zimbabwe, wildlife researchers have found that blocks of napier grass, strategically placed, can attract nightly flocks of weaverbirds. These grain-devouring pests (usually called quelea) like to roost together in the tall grass after a day in the fields. The simple concept of providing a man-made haven for the night offers a means for capturing them in quantity. On moonless nights they can be approached and either caught for food or otherwise destroyed.
Despite the promise inherent in this approach to one of the world's worst pest problems, there are at present several operational difficulties. One may well be overcome using vetiver, which would likely be an ideal grass for creating the trap roosts. Compared with napier grass, vetiver would be permanent, nonspreading, and safe from wandering wildlife or loose livestock. Given further innovation, perhaps blocks of vetiver will eventually be used as "lenses" to focus flocks of pestiferous small birds wherever they are a farm problem.1
Vetiver represents a whole new approach to erosion control. The hedge concept is a point of departure for future elaborations. We have included a section on the idea of searching for more species to use where (or if) vetiver fails. For details see Appendix B.
More information on the pioneering work in Zimbabwe can be found in the companion report on Africa's promising native cereals, Lost Crops of Africa Volume 1: Grains. For information on BOSTID publications, see page 162. Napier grass is mentioned in Appendix B.