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Pua Kaiaulu

Kaʻala Farm, Inc

Wai‘anae, Oahu

9-12, Post-high / College

Summer 2023

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I love Pua Kaiaulu


Weaving ancestral wisdom with youth empowerment and knowledge related to community decision/policy-making processes is an incredible combination for social change. Involving kumu contributes to the growing call for changes in haumana learning experiences. The Pua Kaiaulu focus is on Native Hawaiian youth collectively empowered, working alongside adults, to help break down human created systems that enable poverty indicators: homeless, domestic violence, substance abuse, etc., and recreate the systems that allow native communities to thrive and gain momentum. Youth power gives hope and traction to communities to reverse spiritual poverty, being a victim, and helplessness – communities that “don’t know how” to communities that can and do. The Pua Kaiāulu approach combines a Native Hawaiian epistemological framework with the learning of ‘place.’

This year's program was hugely successsful by all measures. Students and kumu chose from among five pathways and then spend five weeks learning more deeply about the impact and/or isssues of the pathway on their community. the five pathways and summaries are: 

Fire Mitigation: Wildfires are one of the primary drivers of forest loss and landscape change in Hawaii, and the Waianae coast of Oahu has the highest rate of wildfire ignitions in the state. Almost all of these wildfires are human-caused. According to the USDA Forest Service, populated areas in Waianae Kai are at 90% higher risk from wildfires when compared to Hawaii communities and a 97% higher risk when compared to the US. This makes Waianae Kai a top priority for wildfire management. Kaala Farm and PALS/PLACES participate monthly with the Waianae Wildfire Management Hui.

Ola Pono: Nutrition-Related Health Disparities: The Waianae Coast ranks highest in Honolulu County and the State for debilitating health conditions related to nutrition and food insecurity. Risk begins early. Over 50% of WCCHC patients >6 yrs are overweight or obese.

Food Insecurity: Prior to the current Covid-19 pandemic, it was estimated that nearly 1/7 Hawaii residents was food insecure. However, food insecurity appears to be more common on the Waianae Coast. We believe that food insecurity has dramatically worsened with the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Cost of living: In 2019, Hawaii had the nation’s highest cost of living but among the lowest wages. Over 71% of Native Hawaiians live paycheck to paycheck and 34% have indicated that they struggle to pay for food. Fresh foods, including produce, are especially expensive. Local produce production is growing, however for many reasons, local produce is still expensive. Unstable community food systems: Hawaii imports over 85% of its food making the State extremely vulnerable to mis-matched supply and demand. Many local stores, including some on the Waianae Coast, carry few local produce items. Not surprising, with the sudden disruptions to Hawaii’s food supply chain, local farmers are experiencing tremendous challenges.

Mental Health: Following three years of the pandemic, disruptions including lockdowns, school closures, parental unemployment, COVID-related deaths and illnesses among family and friends, it is not surprising that more youth are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety, doing poorly in school, not getting along with others, and experiencing physical health issues, such as obesity.

Renewable Energy: Kaala Farm exists completely off the grid. KFI has resisted fossil fuel energy - as the impacts are out of balance with nature. The next steps in the reframing of our community story is to step into the future technologies, while still in balance with environment. We hope to do this by creating micro-grid energy systems. The creation of micro-grid systems will also allow community participation in the collective movement toward

community healing, independent decision-making, resilience and sustainability. The project outcome will be

a modern day pu`uhonua (place of refuge) that continues to reconnect to the brilliance of the past, reframe the story of our once thriving community, and catalyze the energies inherent in the land and our people. With a focus on energy justice, this idea will empower our community through clean energy. This effort focuses on equity and our future for self-determination. Self-determination provides us the necessary means to break away from the impact of colonization. It provides us a positive and community-driven approach to change.

Significance of Indigenous Practices: Traditional knowledge is at the core of indigenous identity, culture, languages, heritage and livelihoods, and its transmission from one generation to the next must be protected, preserved and encouraged. Traditional knowledge is transmitted between generations through stories, songs, dances, carvings, paintings and performances. However, global histories of colonialism, exploitation and dispossession continue to undermine and undervalue these aspects. For over 40 years Kaala has been focused on reconnecting students and family to the brilliance and significance of indigenous practices.

Wai: Water is among our most important natural resources. Battles were fought and lives sacrificed for the right to use stream water. The Hawaiians called freshwater wai, and considered it to be sacred. People using wai from streams took only what was absolutely necessary. They were expected to share the wai with others. This was done without greed or selfishness. Such practices gave Hawaiians their word for law which is kānāwai, or the “equal sharing of water.” Water was so valuable to Hawaiians that they used the word “wai” to indicate wealth. Thus, to signify abundance and prosperity, Hawaiians would say waiwai. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how brittle our globalized world is, and a particular lack of resiliency for Hawaii. When it comes to water security, we must leave nothing to chance.

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