Restoration Ecology: Principles and Practice in Kaua'i

Malama ‘Aina to guarantee food accessibility and sustainability in Kauai
by -- March 22nd, 2017

The Hawaiian words malama and aina have many different meanings in English. However, these words are very important to understand Hawaiian culture and their relationship with the land, nature and environment. In general terms, on the one hand, malama means to take care, preserve, protect, serve, honor, fidelity and loyalty. So, malama is used in Hawaii to indicate a relationship of care and preservation. On the other hand, aina means land and their identification with the land. Therefore, Malama ‘Aina means to care for and nurture the land, so it can give back all we need to sustain life for ourselves and our future generations.

As soon as I heard this expression, I found it fascinating. I thought that Hawaiian culture had so much to teach us. These words have a powerful meaning that played an important role in Hawaiian life, culture and values.

However, today approximately 90% of Hawaii’s food supply is imported, leading to the highest food costs in the country. The cost of monthly meals prepared at home for a family of four in Hawaii is more than $1000 compared with $796 in the rest of United States. This is a continued struggle for the Hawaiian community. Although Hawaii has an excellent climate, growing food in a sustainable way has become a problem due the land use ownership (a lot of land in the hands of few landowners), limited space for agriculture and lack of transportation infrastructure. This is why there are a lot of concern about Kauai’s food accessibility, affordability and self-sustaining food production.

Farmers markets are a good option to solve this issue. They benefit farmers, consumers and the community. Farmers markets engage local economic opportunities were each group is beneficiary and save costs. There are 12 Farmer’s Markets around the island of Kauai. At least one each day. My favorite was Waipa’s Farmers Market, which takes place every Thursday at 2:00pm, were you can find many local food products almost 100% organic. It is a nice experience to visit and talk with the farmers and how they connect with their products. My favorite product was the hibiscus tea.

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