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NGO Toki promotes cooperative agriculture on Rapa Nui  

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Thanks to an alliance of agricultural workers, the island is becoming increasingly more food secure.

NGO Toki has been working for six years, developing the area of agro- ecology as one of its cultural conservation and ecological pillars. During these years, they have developed infrastructure models that aid in agricultural efficiency,  have rescued ancestral cultivation techniques, and  presented agricultural autonomy as an urgent necessity on Rapa Nui.


The reality of this pandemic highlights the importance of Toki’s vision of developing an extensive agro-ecological field in an extensive and well-coordinated manner


Rapa Nui (Easter Island) imports 10-15 thousand kilograms (22-33 thousand pounds) of vegetables from Santiago, Chile per week because local production cannot meet demand. The 14 pre-pandemic commercial flights have been reduced to 2 weekly which bring perishable and non perishable goods: Inevitably prices have been affected and supplies are scarce.


The island closed down on March 15 when the first cases of Coronavirus appeared and were swiftly dealt with. Because 80% of the Rapa Nui population lives from tourism or associated services, the islanders suddenly found themselves jobless.


This “perfect storm,” a critical food situation, became in fact “an opportunity to develop agriculture on the island,” explains Juan Haoa, head of the agro-ecological area at NGO Toki.


“It is the time to unite and create an agricultural association. Toki is working with other farmers and sellers to sell in bulk to optimize costs and work time. In this way we can lower the need to import and help to supply the island,” said Mahina Pakarati Trengove, Toki Collaborator.



Costs on a tourist island


One of the reasons that the cost of living is so high on Rapa Nui is so high is because almost all basic supplies are imported. With a bustling tourist trade, this cost is manageable and a reality because most of the island’s labor force is employed in tourism. But today it is urgent that we bolster professional agriculture to help create food autonomy.


What other factors have hampered agricultural development on Rapa Nui?  “Impediments include a lack of dedication, of recognizing the value of agricultural and technological development, the need for more knowledge and a shortage of laborers. There is a shortage of arable land and much of it is being used for tourism. We must teach the islanders to prioritize our ancestral foods such as sweet potatoes and taro over onions and potatoes which come from the mainland.”


The leaders of NGO Toki calculate that 30% of the total needs of the island could be met with enough workers, infrastructure and the necessary supplies. The first step is education and Toki is offering workshops to the community in such areas as germination, soils, pruning, food production, greenhouses etc to share their knowledge of local agriculture, to optimize resources, and to develop agro-ecology in distinct areas in an efficient manner.


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