In a recent blog post, we talked about Hawai'i aquaculture and how it's an integral part of ancient Hawaiian culture AS WELL AS a way of self-sufficiency. Fishponds were one of the first methods of aquaculture on the islands, symbolizing the connection between ancient Hawaiians, the 'aina (land), and the akua (gods). The Hui Ho'oleimaluō is an organization focusing on loko i'a (Hawaiian fishpond) restoration in the southeast area of The Big Island. TheY provide food for the community and safety for the keiki through hands-on education, community advocacy, and place-based management for natural resources.
Aquaculture on the islands started with fishponds–their cultural significance dates as far back as the 14th century! In mythology, the builder of the first Hawaiian fishpond, Ku-ula-kai, "Ku of the abundance of the sea," is a member of the Ku family of gods. According to stories, Ku-ula-kai built the fispond at Kaiwiopele in Hana. It's said that they constructed these fishponds in a single night! They were used to supplement other fishing activities to guarantee food supply for the community. Fishponds not only housed fish, but were also sacred locations for shrines, and were protected by the kapu.
Hui Ho'oleimaluō's work includes restoring native flora and fauna of the area, increasing cultural resources, and creating STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) experiences to allow volunteers to build the skills needed to pursue local STEAM studies. They engage with Hawaiian and local students between grades 3-12 through outdoor classroom learning, while quarterly community events attract community volunteers of all ages and backgrounds.
"Our vision is to build thriving communities through thriving ecosystems."
Not only is it important to perpetuate Hawaiian culture, but we must invest in our future generation, the keiki. Hololeimaluō does both by educating young keiki about the local ecosystem, culture, and keeping them safe from crime and drug use.
While their main focus is restoring fishponds, Ho'oleimaluō recently implemented a new mala, a community garden, near their pond. The Waiakea team had the opportunity to help with this new project made by the hands of Holeimaluō volunteers and keiki. Weeds began taking over the garden, so the team spent time pulling them and stripping coconut husks to use over mulch. They helped out with making a new garden bed, working hand-in-hand with the keiki as they followed and planted corn.
"It was nice to see the community come together, planting sustainable plants that are native to this 'aina." - Jay, Waiakea team