KALIHIAWAI — Kauai is gearing up to build the next double-hulled voyaging canoe on Hawaii and now the organization heading up the project has five acres in Kalihiwai to do it.
“We’ve got repurposed canoe hulls, so now we’ve got the hulls and the people and the place for it,” said Marshall Paul, executive director of the new community-based nonprofit Konohiki Restoration Project.
He continued: “And we’ve also got a place to start carrying out our vision of making it more possible for Native Hawaiians to grow kalo (taro).”
The nonprofit was formed as a way to create a gathering place for Native Hawaiians, where people can come together to build canoes and farm, as well as learn traditional values and practices and discuss current events and issues.
Paul shares a vision with Ka’imi Hermosura, a konohiki of the District of Halele’a, a Native Hawaiian navigator, and a crewmember of Kauai’s voyaging canoe Namahoe.
As konohiki, Hermosura is traditionally designated with overseeing land use in the ahupua’a, a division akin to a watershed and an ancient Hawaiian designation for an area of land that stretches from the mountains to the sea.
A partnership between the two was formed after Paul got some money for rural infrastructure development through the U.S. Department of Agriculture in June of 2017.
“The intention was to assist people in developing ways of living on the land, small farmers particularly,” Paul said.
That vision paired with one of Hermosura’s main kuleanas — keeping loi (taro fields) productive and the traditional ways of farming alive.
“It’s preserving and collecting varieties of Hawaiian plants that we use daily, but most of all taro varieties and food crops,” Hermosura said. “Some of them we are trying to keep from being extinct.
Learning about the loi and its place within the ahupua’a system is integral to the vision of Konohiki Restoration Project, and it moves within a bigger picture Hermosura and Paul are hoping to create.
“(We’re) creating programs with farming and planting and harvesting and learning about celestial navigation and how it is all a big cycle with the ocean and the mountain,” Hermosura said. “We weave it all in with the deeper values of building canoes.”
The vision is coming together thanks to the work of volunteers associated with Konohiki Restoration Project, whose mission is to “restore the health of the land and that which sustains”.
“It’s actually getting family members involved and creating programs, and interweaving cultural aspects and language and values into the programs,” said Hermosura said.
Long-term, Paul said his original goal was to create a commune-style community where people live and work together in a food forest type setting with an emphasis in permaculture.
He modeled the idea after the Virginia community of Twin Oaks, one of the only off-the-grid communes to survive after springing up nation-wide in the 1960’s.
“Just about all those communes failed, but this one succeeded,” Paul said.
Once Konohiki Restoration Project establishes productive loi on the Kalihiwai site, Paul said the next step is to market test some varieties.
“Ultimately we’d like to start a for profit kalo business and there’s no one more qualified than Ka’imi to do it,” Paul said. “It’s all very exciting. We’re in the capacity building stage right now.”
The organization’s wish-list includes big-ticket items like $28,000 for a tractor and implements, $20,000 for an office building and $2,400 for a generator as well as a truck, and a riding mower.
Volunteers are also welcome to join the effort. Currently there are organized volunteer opportunities and more information can be found at http://www.konohikirestorationproject.com/ or by calling Marshall Paul at 344-6796.