If you can detect a sweet, woody, smoky note in your favourite scent, it’s likely to be vetiver oil, an ingredient used in many fragrances. This popular substance comes from the root of the vetiver plant with Haiti producing some of the best quality vetiver in the world.
It is also an important crop for Unilever, found across many of our home and beauty & personal care brands, including Axe and Impulse. We have now launched a new partnership, Vetiver Together, to improve the livelihoods – both socially and economically – of smallholder vetiver farmers in Les Cayes, Haiti.
Working closely with our supplier, International Flavors & Fragrances, we aim to increase yields, diversify income, improve food security, and empower women within our vetiver supply chain.
Many farmers rely on vetiver as their sole source of income. But, as it can only be harvested once every 12 to 18 months, farmers often harvest the roots before they are fully mature, which leads to a poorer-quality crop, environmental damage, and ultimately less money.
Vetiver Together will tackle these challenges by implementing relevant best practices, including reforestation and soil conservation. Haiti’s landscape was once covered in trees, but now has one of the lowest rates of forest cover in the world. Felling for agriculture and domestic fuel use contributes to soil erosion and water scarcity.
Farmers will also be provided with livestock – as both an additional food source and means to earn extra income by bartering and selling eggs, milk or meat.
Passing on the Gift
The majority of vetiver farmers are male as growing this crop is a physically demanding business. To enable women to earn an income too, Heifer International – the project's implementation partner – will provide families with livestock and seeds for the family garden.
Each family has agreed to pass on the first female offspring of their livestock to a neighbouring family in need, providing an ongoing source of support.
Women will also receive training in livestock management and leadership skills, while also benefiting from the micro-credit necessary to develop small businesses.
Strengthening the supply chain
The project is supported by the Enhancing Livelihoods Fund – a partnership between Unilever, Oxfam Great Britain, and the Ford Foundation. The fund backs innovative models designed to improve agricultural practices and deliver a positive social impact, particularly when it comes to empowering women.
This strategic investment recognises that improving smallholder and community livelihoods and strengthening the Haitian vetiver supply chain are mutually beneficial.
“Partnerships, like Vetiver Together, are instrumental if we are to achieve the level of systemic change that is necessary across industries and supply chains,” says Dhaval Buch, Chief Procurement Officer, Unilever.