More than one million Rohingya refugees escaped violence in Myanmar. They are living on the hilly terrains of Cox's Bazar where the land is steep and the soil is sandy. They are desperate for space to build shelters and they have used the plantation to care for their families. Now, the land they live on is bare, and the sandy slopes are extremely vulnerable to landslides during the monsoon and cyclone seasons.

Vetiver grass stored inside the camp. Photo: Abdullah Mashrif / IOM (2018)

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, along with its partners are planting vetiver grass all over the camp to mitigate the risk of soil erosion.

Grasses are kept in water to keep them hydrated. Photo: Abdullah Mashrif / IOM (2018)

In the past weeks, over 10,000 bundles of vetiver grass have been distributed by IOM in the refugee camps. Approximately 500,000 sqm of land has been covered.

A bundle of 200 plants costs $1.50 USD. It is expected that this project will significantly improve the quality of the soil in the camps.

Workers collecting grasses to plant in different locations. Photo: Abdullah Mashrif / IOM (2018)

As well as distributing the grass among partners, IOM has directly planted 2,750 bundles through IOM’s Cash for Work (CfW) program, where Rohingya refugees and members of local host communities work together to mitigate structural issues in the camp.

Mohammed Kasim is processing land before plantation. Photo: Abdullah Mashrif / IOM (2018)

"It is a great idea to plant grass in the slops, the camp will be greener and safer." says Mohammed Kasim who has been working with IOM on several projects.

CfW participants separating seedlings from bundles before planting. Photo: Abdullah Mashrif / IOM (2018)

It takes five laborers approximately one hour to plant grass on 30 sqm of land. The seedlings reach full length (1 meter) in two months.

IOM has produced a series of simple illustrations which will help workers understand the best way to plant the grass.

Bamboo sticks are used to fix seedlings in the soil. Photo: Abdullah Mashrif / IOM (2018)

Newly planted vetiver grass must be watered twice a day. Community volunteers and refugee families have been eagerly taking care of the plants. This project has made people more concerned about soil erosion and the risks of landslides.

One week after plantation. Photo: Abdullah Mashrif / IOM (2018)

The vetiver grass project is a practical and long term initiative which IOM site management teams are working on to improve camp conditions during the coming Monsoon rains.

The use of vetiver grass is a tried and tested method for slope stabilization. IOM anticipates that this sustainable and cost effective approach will have a positive impact on reducing slope failures inside the camp during the wettest months of the year.