The Gavias of Fuerteventura are a characteristic, traditional and very old farming system of the island of Fuerteventura. Fuerteventura is, with Lanzarote, the driest island in the Canary archipelago, but also one of the driest places in Spain. In order to live and grow food, peninsular settlers developed systems to take advantage of the rainwater and make the lands of Fuerteventura optimal places for cultivation. Thus the gavias emerged.
How do gavias work?
The gavias are arable land that has different parts to collect and take advantage of rainwater, and prepare that land for planting, especially cereals. The parts that make up the gavia are:
– Trastón: is a wall made of stone, whose function is to retain rainwater in the arable land for several days. The consistency of this wall must be strong because it has to withstand the force and push of standing water.
– Torna: is an opening in the back that allows water to enter the top. It can be a simple slot or a more complex system of gates and ways for water to circulate through the top.
– Drainage: this is another opening in the trastón. However, at this point the water is carried to another gavia that exists on the other side of the wall or to the ravine, where the excess water is stored.
– Caño: are the channels through which it circulates in the water from the trastón to the top. It may consist of a single pipe that carries rainwater to the gavia, or a system of several main and secondary channels.
– Gates: are structures responsible for controlling the amount of water that leaves the trastón and enters the gavias. In addition, it prevents the flow of the gavias from increasing when they contain the necessary water.
How many types of gavias do they exist?
The gavias can be located in those places where it is necessary to collect water to encourage cultivation. In Fuerteventura we find two types: the gavias of hillside and the gavias of ravine bottom.
– Gavia of hillside: these are located in areas with little hillside. The gavia of hillside receive the water from alcogidas, consisting of structures built on the slopes in order to collect rainwater.
– Ravine bottom gavia: they are in the bottoms of the ravines. However, they can occupy the entire bed of the ravine or the margins of the ravine. The first brakes the course of water and the strength of this is weak, while the second, are located in areas with a greater flow.
On the other hand, gavias are not only divided in the situation they occupy, but they will also be different according to the water collection. At this point we find:
– Gavias of alcogida: as its own name indicates, these collect the water of the alcogidas. You can collect the water that circulates through the land or through pipes that lead to the farmland.
– Bypass gavias: the top ones receive the water by a secondary pipe, that is to say, the main channel is hindered so that the water circulates by other routes and in occasions it can arrive at several gavias.
– Mixed gavias: these have the two previous systems, of alcogida and derivation so that the water reaches the cultivable land.
– Modern gavias: it is a mixed system, however, it mixes tradition with irrigation by wells that work thanks to windmills. Most of the gavias that exist in Fuerteventura have this system.
– Recharge gavias: the main function of these topsails is to recharge the ponds and extract the water stored by wells, so that the land always has water suitable for cultivation.
The gavias have played a fundamental role in the agriculture of Fuerteventura. However, at present there are very few since the day laborers of the field have abandoned them for more modern and simple techniques. In order not to lose the essence of the Majorero crop, some public institutions continue to maintain some gavias, so that everyone who visits the island knows what the life of the peninsular settlers was like.