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Editorial | Island Voices

Kamilo Nui could be a cultural resource

  • COURTESY KIMO FRANKLIN
    The reintroduction of ‘uala (sweet potato) to Kamilo Nui Valley could be the basis for a learning center similar to centers in areas of Hawaii known for taro production. Above, ‘uala growing at Aloha ‘Aina ‘o Kamilo Nui.
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Kamilo Nui Valley, the last agricultural valley in East Oahu, is a model for sustainability, culture and learning, with great potential for expansion of agriculture.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, when money talks and everything good often walks, the valley is under constant threat.

Kamilo Nui Valley is located in the ahupua’a of Maunalua, which has a rich agricultural heritage. In an already overdeveloped Hawaii Kai, it would be a travesty for us to lose this valley and the uniqueness that it has to offer. More houses and a cemetery are not what the community wants or needs. Both would have serious negative consequences.

Kamehameha Schools has a plan for sustainable agriculture and along with the community and interested agencies (possibly the Office of Hawaiian Affairs) should work with the farmers, including those behind Kaiser High School, to develop a plan to meet the schools’ criteria for keeping the valley in agriculture long beyond the expiration of leases in 15 years.

Culture, history and learning could be introduced to the valley to help supplement farming. This has already been started at Aloha ‘Aina ‘o Kamilo Nui (at Chrysanthemums of Hawaii), with the community’s participation in composting invasive alien algae removed from Maunalua Bay, and with the recent reintroduction and planting of ‘uala (sweet potatoes) in the area.

Kamilo Nui was part of a vast agricultural complex during traditional times and was known as the "Famous Sweet Potato Planting Place" called "Ke Kula o Kamauwai."

Pahua heiau is a well-preserved agricultural heiau at the foot of Kamilo Nui valley, on land owned by OHA. Pahua heiau is recorded in ancient chant as being related to ‘uala production in the area. Pahua could become a striking symbol again for an agriculturally revived Maunalua.

Kamilo Nui Valley has all of the basic elements of a living ahupua’a and would be a perfect place to create a living, dry-land ahupua’a displaying traditional ahupua’a land management.

The reintroduction of ‘uala to the valley could be the basis for a learning center similar to learning centers in areas known for taro production. What a great resource this could be for Kamehameha Schools students and all of Hawaii’s people. This is achievable if the farmers, the community, interested agencies and Kamehameha Schools work together.

Doesn’t it make sense to create a lasting legacy in Kamilo Nui? Located on the fringe of Honolulu, in a historically and culturally rich location, it is close to the major populace where it can be accessible and be a sustainable breadbasket of produce, plants and flowers.

Let’s work out the economics, come up with a plan that is fair for the farmers and supports local agriculture. Grow food, not more houses, in Maunalua, and let’s leave a meaningful legacy for our children to benefit from. It is time to fully support all of the remaining farms and plant nurseries In Maunalua.

Kimo Franklin is a lifelong resident of East Honolulu and is active in community-led restoration projects in Maunalua Bay and Kamilo Nui Valley.

 

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