Letter: Keep agriculture in East Honolulu’s Maunalua
East Honolulu’s Kamilo Nui Valley is a valley with great potential for expansion of agriculture and serves as a model for sustainability, culture, and learning. This last agricultural valley in East Honolulu is under constant threat. Unfortunately, in this day and age, money talks and everything else good often walks.
Kamilo Nui valley is located in the ahupuaa of Maunalua, which has a rich agricultural heritage. Kamilo Nui should be preserved in agriculture, culture, and learning for future generations. 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 social and environmental consequences for the community.
Kamehameha Schools (KS) has a plan for sustainable agriculture and should work with the farmers, including those behind Kaiser High School, the community, and other interested agencies—possibly the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA)— to develop a plan to meet KS criteria for keeping the valley in agriculture long beyond the expiration of leases in 15 years.
Culture, history and learning could be introduced into the valley to help supplement farming. This has already been started at Aloha Aina o Kamilo Nui (located at Chrysanthemums of Hawaii) in the community’s participation of composting invasive alien algae removed from Maunalua Bay and with the recent re-introduction and planting of uala (sweet potatoes) in the area.
Kamilo Nui was part of a great agricultural complex during traditional times and was know 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 and administered 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 ahupuaa and would be a perfect place to create a living dry-land ahupuaa displaying traditional ahupuaa land management. The re-introduction of uala to the valley could create a learning center similar to kalo cultivation. Teaching and learning centers already in existence in other areas of Hawaii have been known in the past for taro production. What a great learning resource this could be for KS students and all of Hawaii’s people. This is something achievable and that can be done if the farmers, community, interested agencies, and KS work together
I have been told that KS does not consider their 87 acres in Kamilo Nui valley to be of any great significance when looking at their whole assets portfolio. Therefore, without the fear of it leaving a major dent in their pocket book, doesn’t it make sense to create a lasting legacy in Kamilo Nui. Located right 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 already being produced here for the community.
Surely, another valley of concrete and houses with a cemetery above would not be the highest and best use of this agricultural and culturally valuable land. Let’s get beyond the money mania mindset, come up with a plan that is fair for the farmers, support local agriculture, grow food, and not more houses in Maunalua and leave a meaningful and lasting legacy for our children to benefit from and not further degrade an already overdeveloped community.
Franklin is a life long resident of East Honolulu and is active in community-led restoration projects in the area.