Haiti is well known for their rich culture, flavorful foods, and the resilient spirit of their people, but did you know about their role in the fragrance industry? Haiti’s connection to the fragrance industry dates back to the 1930s when Vetiver grass was first introduced to the country. The Vetiver plant thrived under Haiti’s harsh soil conditions, and many farmers continue to make a living off of growing Vetiver. The Vetiver root is an ingredient widely used in perfumes and essential oils for its unique earthy and sweet scent. Many popular perfumes like Dior Sauvage and Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium contain Vetiver notes.
Despite the popularity of Vetiver, many Haitian farmers are struggling to sustain a stable income. Vetiver is usually harvested during dryer seasons for the highest quality, but many farmers cannot afford to only harvest seasonally. Vetiver is often harvested before it is fully mature and of highest quality as farmers require more money to pay for living expenses, their children’s educations, and basic necessities. Many farmers also do not adequately get paid for their strenuous work since they usually get paid for a limited time during the dry season. Additionally, Vetiver farming is often disorganized. There is a lack of communication between farmers to share cultivation knowledge, as well as a lack of officials to back farmers and ensure that they get paid fairly for their work.
Some organizations are working with Vetiver farmers and advocating for them. For example, doTERRA International created a Co-Impact Sourcing Initiative to form cooperatives for farmers. With this program, the cooperatives helped train farmers about proper Vetiver cultivation and partnered with a distiller to ensure the farmers were receiving fair pay during all stages of harvest. There is also the company Vetiver Solutions that partners with local farmers in Moreau, Haiti to listen to the interests of farming families and create products that are ethical and environmentally sustainable.
Written by Serina Bernardo