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Malama Learning Center

Hawaii Green Collar Institute: Solution Pathways for Sustainable Agriculture as the Climate Changes

Kapolei, Wai‘anae, O‘ahu

Spring 2023



Program Information:

Unlike the early Hawaiian people who subsisted off the land and sea, residents of Hawaii today, in general, are over-dependent on imported foods from far away places. Some estimates are that 85-90% of our basic foods are flown or shipped into Hawaii. Additionally, fertilizers, seeds, and energy are imported, leaving the islands particularly vulnerable to economic disruptions, fuel price fluctuations, catastrophic natural disasters, water scarcity (e.g. decreasing rainfall in already dry areas), effects of increased heat, and other climate-related events. Not only is this unsustainable, it also means that food is not as fresh and nutrient-rich as it is when grown and eaten locally. Hawaii also has one of the highest rates of food “insecurity,” meaning that one out of four people do not have regular access to good and nutritious food. Despite ambitious goals to double food production in Hawaii by 2030, local food production is on a downward trend.

Solution Pathways for Sustainable Agriculture as the Climate Changes is a new course that Malama Learning Center intends to run under its Hawaii Green Collar Institute for high school students from Kapolei and the Waianae Coast during Spring Break 2023. 

This project aims to introduce grades 9-12 high school students to a range of issues and experiences in local agriculture that bridge traditional Hawaiian ike (knowledge) with modern technology to better understand the pathway toward doubling local food production by 2030. 

Project Objectives:

  • Increase the knowledge and life skills (collaboration, communication, academic and career readiness) of 20-25 students; 

  • Increase awareness of students on the importance of growing food locally to be resilient to the expected impacts of climate change; 

  • Engage students in hands-on activities that benefit local agricultural organizations; 

  • Equip students with knowledge that they will share with family, community members, and decision-makers on how they can support local agriculture; 

  • Encourage students to pursue sustainable agriculture or other “green” careers in Hawaii; and 

  • Educate the public about these issues through development of a 5 minute video aired on television for one month (“Outside Hawaii” on Spectrum OC16).

The main activities of the project will include five days of huakai (field experiences) at non-profit organizations and for-profit businesses spanning commercial agriculture, education, and research. Invited guest speakers will include new and seasoned farmers, scientists, educators, and legislators (city/state/federal). Proposed field sites include: MAO Organic Farms (Lualualei), Kaala Farm in (Waianae), Hoa Aina O Makaha (Makaha), University of Hawaii West Oahu (Kapolei), Hawaii Agriculture Research Center (Kunia) and Kunia Country Farms (Kunia). These sites have been selected for their unique features that support sustainable agriculture and community resilience, as well as their locations primarily within the Leeward Oahu region.

Through this project, students will have potentially life-changing opportunities to work and learn together through in-depth, meaningful, hands-on experiences that strengthen their connections to the aina, each other, and potential future careers in a “green” industry. Students will join alumni of HGCI who have established a network of support with professionals and community members in this field that will allow them to continue their work further through internships, volunteering, academic research, or work study programs.

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