Two weeks ago I attended a Food Sovereignty Conference in Waimanalo. I was a little bummed because I was on the planning committee, working on behind the scenes stuff, but in retrospect I can’t complain! Went to some awesome workshops and met some incredible people.
The first day was devoted to the Youth Delegation to learn more about the concept of Food Sovereignty and about the leadership qualities it will take to turn Hawai`i’s food dependency around.
The next day was open to the general public and after an opening plenary we embarked on huaka`i (field trips) to various farms and other food systems in the area. The sites were UH SOFT Garden, Mala Laulima, Olomana Gardens, Aina Aloha o na Limahana and an on-site Aquaponics demonstration. That was a HOT day, I got burnt. I went to Mala Laulima, an organic garden behind Waimanalo Elementary School.
The last and final day was full of workshops to attend. I attended `Ai Pono, Local Pollinators, and Native Limu. It was awesome. `Ai Pono was Uncle Herbert Hoe and his daughter Aunty Tammy. They are working hard to incorporate fresh and traditional foods into school lunches! This past year they only served at Hakipu’u Learning Center (a charter school run by their family), but next year they are expanding to 7 schools! Exciting! 🙂 They said the kids get mountain apple in their fruit salad–so lucky! They use `ulu from their yard, and are able to buy produce from nearby farmer’s (they’re from Waiahole). Aunty’s message: “It CAN be done!” 🙂 So inspiring.
The session on Local Pollinators was so awesome! They brought different kinds of honey for us to try–so ‘ono, as well as a display bee colony. Did you know that Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop was the first one to introduce honeybees to Hawai`i? We learned all about how different kinds of bees pollinate different kinds of plants. Here’s one of the coolest images they used. The top is a cucumber that had been “visited” (supposed to be by a bee, but this might have been hand pollinated) only a few times, next to one that was “visited” many times. Night and day!
Bees are so important! I learned of a new deleterious effect of pesticides and herbicides–they can kill bees! The presenters were saying that bee folks think that this is a contributing factor to the decline in wild bee populations. Another reason to go organic! 🙂 The other cool thing I learned was that we have native honeybees!
The bummer thing is that the other day I saw this article about how they are being considered for federal protection because they’ve become extremely rare. They are endemic, not found anywhere else in the world! The article said that they may be getting pushed out by honeybees, but the presenters said that studies in Brazil said that honeybees are not known to be invasive, but instead pollinated enough plants so that native bees continued to have habitat and food. Not sure which one is the case in Hawai`’i.
The last workshop I went to was on Native Limu–wow, so much knowledge! Uncle Henry Chang-Wo shared about how he can look at the limu on the shoreline to tell what kind of fish are present in the area–because certain fish only eat certain limu. Wow! He also shared about how some kinds of limu can only grow in areas where there is fresh, clean water outflow–if you see that one on the shore you know that the watershed of the area is somewhat still intact. He explained that limu was to Hawaiians what herbs and spices are to other cultures. I could go on and on, but really, if you ever get a chance to meet Uncle Henry, be ready to learn!
Mahalo to all the presenters, hosts, and participants–see you all next year! 🙂