Greenpeace Visits Natural Farming Project

Natural Farming - (Mon) October 22, 2018

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Several Greenpeace representatives came out to the site of our new Natural Farming program Kupa ʻĀina last Tuesday. They witnessed Partners in Development Foundation's efforts towards sustainability and food security using a blend of Natural Farming practices including indigenous Hawaiian farming techniques.

Greenpeace visited five local farms to get a more in-depth view of Hawaiian agriculture and cultural practices. The visits were organized by local activist Andre Perez, known for his work supporting the struggle for Mauna Kea. Andre has also been part of Greenpeace's Training Crew that assists in the training of activists in direct nonviolent action.

Hannah Strange, the Director of Greenpeace USA's Movement Support Hub, reached out to Andre to help find local groups or community events for the Greenpeace group to support or engage with during their time in Hawaiʻi. Besides visiting the farms on Oʻahu, Hannah and the other representatives from Greenpeace participated in a beach clean-up in Kahoʻolawe over the weekend.

"We wanted to make a video focusing on local ingredients, or culturally relevant ingredients, and show how they grow, where they grow, who grows them, how you cook them," said Hannah. She went on to explain how Greenpeace wanted to connect its Food For Life campaign, and what better way to promote sustainable food than to visit our new sustainable farming program?

Seeing Things from the Beginning

Upon arrival at the site, Kupa ʻĀina program director Kūʻikeokalani ("Kūʻike") Kamakea-Ohelo led Hannah and Greenpeace chef Daniel Bravo Garibi on the traditional planting of an ulu tree, beginning with the hoʻokupu (offering) of a large fish -- both as a gift to Akua and as a rich nutrient source for the sapling to thrive on.

"It's a good experience for them to come and see the beginning. They can say they are directly contributing to this community," explained Kūʻike. He described the importance of addressing the issues indigenous Hawaiian people have in adapting to a western diet, including the high rate of diabetes on the islands.

Many native Hawaiian crops like ulu, luau, and kalo are high in a variety of nutrients. With more native foods like these available and accessible, they could potentially help with Hawaiians' health issues.

Besides the people's health, there is also concern for the health of the land. Part of Greenpeace's Food For Life initiative advocates food grown without chemicals, GMOs, or even corporate intervention. Kūʻike and Kupa ʻĀina coordinator Zachary Huang demonstrated how they source microbes and use them to naturally enrich the land -- no pesticides, herbicides, or any other artificial inputs required.

Kūʻike and Zach say that, contrary to modern farming techniques, the land increases in fertility and arability season after season, creating a sustainable food production model. They call it a "retention over return" methodology. While that has yet to be seen, the program has so far been successful. They are in the fourth month of a multi-year intensive soil rehabilitation plan and, since the first seeding in July of this year, over 500 people have been fed with the food grown here.

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Cultural Connections

Following the visit, Greenpeace partnered with Kupa ʻĀina and other local organizations and families to prepare a traditional Hawaiian and local dishes for the crew of their famous ship, the Arctic Sunrise. The ship is currently docked at Honolulu's historic Brewer's Wharf until the end of October, concluding a four-month voyage from down the West Coast to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and to Hawaiʻi.

As part of the video Greenpeace was creating, they wanted to bring Greenpeace crew and staff together with the local community to have a dinner made with indigenous ingredients. The dinner allowed those new to Hawaiian culture the chance to experience how it is built around the different foods that thrive here.

Chef Daniel, Kuʻike, Zach, and several others from Greenpeace and local community worked through the day preparing dishes for the dinner. The galley of the Arctic Sunrise was the epicenter of it all, crowded with people, smells and sounds from frying kalo to mincing ginger and pureeing papaya. 

"It's so cool that people all just brought things for the dinner," begins Hannah. "It's this kind of vibe where we're all asking each other, 'what're we going to cook? How are we going to cook this?' It's sort of like hanging with friends, figuring out what to make together out of the things that we have."

Food for Thought

The overarching theme for Greenpeace's collaboration with Kupa ʻĀina was intentionality. When planting the ulu tree in the field and carrying out the cultural rituals involved, the Greenpeace staff were asked to focus on the task at hand, to be mindful and intentional in their efforts. In planting the tree, they were staking their commitment to feeding generations of people, sowing the seeds for food security and sustainability.

"You have to keep that kind of positivity in your intentions when you're planting food, harvesting food, and creating food," reflected Hannah, taking a brief break from setting up the communal dinner on the deck of the Arctic Sunrise.

That kind of gratitude is not always present in day-to-day life for those who live in cities, or on takeout food, or rely on fast meals to feed little ones. But for anyone, especially Hawaiians, demonstrating intentionality can be a way to connect to culture and traditional practices.


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