1 400 000 trees for Easter Island

18 April 2013

Francine Cousteau, President of the Cousteau Society and the Minister of Agriculture of Chile signed on April 16 a historic agreement with the Rapa Nui people representatives to reforest the eroded lands of Easter Island.

Rapa Nui represents a vivid microcosm of the impact of man and climate change on the health of our planet and the environmental and wider human issues now facing the world. But Easter Island is also a beacon in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for its rich archaeological and unique cultural heritage. It has been more than three decades since Jacques Cousteau arrived in Hanga Roa for the first time onboard Calypso. His widow, Francine Cousteau, remembers that “he had the idea that this place was a planet of its own. She adds that “when Jacques died, I thought of different places where something significant could be done that would have a global impact: economy, population, ecology… and I thought of the island”.

Francine Cousteau, President of the Cousteau Society, is today on Easter Island to sign and formalize a partnership with the National Forest Corporation - CONAF, a subsidiary of the Ministry of Agriculture of Chile - the local authorities of Easter Island as well as the Corporation for Easter Island Development (CODEIPA). This agreement marks the launch of an 8-years project, which reflects the Chilean president’s will to deploy large efforts to improve its natural resources as a legacy for future generations on the occasion of the Bicentenary.

At the core of the project is the restoration of the ecosystem support provided by healthy forests, recreating, in identified areas of the island, an ecosystem as close as possible to that which the first Islanders of Rapa Nui enjoyed. This will drive the wider development of a strong and resilient community with a restored and robust sustainable economy, backed by full island population engagement and responsibility. The Cousteau society will bring to the Chilean government it’s assistance and expertise to create on Easter Island a showcase of good practices for the sustainable future of the island.

“Giving Easter Island the possibility to show that when there is a will, there is a way is a very strong message sent to the rest of the world. It shows the capacity of Chile to be first in line to give hope to future generations”, said Francine Cousteau, President of the Cousteau Society. “

« Rapa Nui’s archaeological heritage has been the object of a considerable amount of research and restoration over the past few decades, which has provided Rapa Nui’s people with significant opportunities for development. It is our hope that the restoration of Rapa Nui’s natural heritage will also yield positive results, and will be beneficial both for the biodiversity of the island and for the livelihoods of the islanders.” Said Diane Cousteau

“What is happening on Easter Island is that one can see that the land is being lost and that the desert is advancing. In this context, we welcome the Society’s idea, and it has been integrated into our Bicentenary Legacy program, which is driving emblematic projects that have high social impact”, explains José Antonio Taladriz, the presidential advisor for the initiative.

As for the director of Conaf, Eduardo Vial, he claims that « the climate conditions are rather rough : intense winds and rainfall, combined with trampling by animals. The idea is to exclude the animals from these zones and to continue with the reforestation.”

« We are going to plant the same native and endemic species as those that went extinct, which we have been collecting, and we will cover almost 10% of the surface of the island (…). It is a fragile ecosystem, a very rich one, and we have to preserve it,” adds the minister of Agriculture, Luis Mayol.

The reforestation project is designed to be the backbone of a wider project aiming to allow the island to become a world focus and a flagship project in ecological, economic and community restoration. Over time the programme will also encompass community projects, education and infrastructure development with commercial, employment & business development to create a sustainable and economically resilient future for the island and its people.

Media coverage


In Spanish

A presentation of the project by Francine Cousteau in Publimetro >>

Campaña para reforestar la Isla de Pascua

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Un convenio entre la Sociedad Jaques Cousteau y el gobierno de Chile busca reforestar la Isla de Pascua y recobrar su equilibrio ecológico por medio de la recuperación de 1.400 hectáreas erosionadas y la implementación de áreas de cultivo de verduras y hortalizas, que permitan subsanar su total dependencia del continente.

In English

Chile starts reforestation drive at Easter Island

Chile's government is partnering with the Jacques Cousteau Society in an effort to combat deforestation in the most remote inhabited island on Earth.
The program seeks to recover 1,400 hectares of eroded Easter Island and encourage the harvesting of vegetables by the local Rapa Nui people.