From 500 to 1500 C.E., the Rapa Nui people utilized a type of gardening that relied on small, semi-circular stone structures known as “manavai” to protect plants from wind and other harmful elements. Now, a joint project involving the municipal government on Easter Island, the Chilean national forestry corporation (CONAF), and the Inter-American Development Bank, are seeking to restore a number of these ancestral gardens — the ruins of which many still exist. The long-term goal is to preserve Rapa Nui agriculture, promote cultural education, and increase ethno-tourism on the Island.
The project — which cost approximately US$300,000 and was partially funded by the Inter-American Development Bank — was announced by Chile’s Minister of Agriculture, Luis Mayol during his recent visit to Easter Island. Mayol stated that the project would, “recover a traditional way of growing food, utilizing the conditions and materials that exist on the Island, such as volcanic rock, natural nutrients and the local climate.” Minister Mayol also indicated that the effort would preserve the ancient gardening technique for future generations.
The announced project will take part in two stages: First, fifteen ancestral gardens will be restored around the Island’s only town and on private land. And after that part is completed, the second stage will involve the restoration of an additional sixteen rock garden sites located in the national park on the Island.