Weaving Together the Silos of Community Development

The New Year—both 2014 and the Lunar New Year—provides a time for reflection and visioning; a time to ask: “How do we properly weave our collective work to push forward?”

In previous posts, I've talked about the term Ho‘owaiwai as a way to articulate what families have recognized as genuine wealth: relationships that are the foundation for a community’s ability to care for itself by managing natural resources in a shared way. Accordingly, viewing the household as the unit that drives an “‘Ohana economy“ encourages such a concept to be adopted by governmental entities.

Similarly, supporting community-based organizations allows for the exploration of how the next generation can properly manage their household while maintaining traditional cultural practices and longstanding relationships with the place of their families and ancestors.

Yet how might we weave these opportunities together and what specific themes would catalyze communal energy and imagination?

A growing number of grassroots community organizations, local farmers, academic institutions, policymakers, and concerned citizens are channeling their energy to redefine education and local food systems in a way that brings greater control, governance and accountability of these far reaching issues back under the purview of communities, especially those most vulnerable to food insecurity and the lack of access to local, healthy food. 

In particular, a strong regional and local grassroots initiative has catalyzed in the moku (traditional land divisions) communities of Waiʻanae, Ewa and Waialua, which have a large population of native Hawaiian and low- to moderate-income individuals, families and communities that have suffered great social and economic distress as a result of colonization and the collapse of industrial agriculture (sugar and pineapple).
In order to further support these pockets of efforts, the Hawai‘i Alliance for Community-Based Economic Development is convening and weaving a network of partners to implement the project “Hina‘i: Hawai‘i Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture. The goal is to develop a network that will support local and regional communities of practice to achieve an example of economic development that is founded in community engagement and strengthens the economic and food system through the indigenization and reconnection of place-based agricultural production and youth engagement. Partners bring a variety of assets and foci and a few include: 

MA‘O Organic Farms: working to re-establish the strength of the Wai‘anae community through a youth leadership development model that reconnects the youth with the land and tradition through an approach to organic farming that encourages communal ownership based on shared risk and responsibility.  

Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation: focuses on working with local teachers to develop environmental education, including nutrition and school garden curricula.

North Shore Community Land Trust: works to protect, steward, and enhance the natural landscapes, cultural heritage, and rural character of the area from Kahuku Point to Ka‘ena.

• Mālama Loko ‘Ea Foundation: works to restore the Loko ‘Ea Fishpond as a center for food production and community.

Hinaʻi refers to the traditional woven baskets or containers that held food, but it also serves as the approach and strategy to weave the work of partners and community members with the vision of restoring the ancestral abundance of a communally-based food, agricultural, and educational system. 

Such a system convenes diverse community practitioners to learn and share cultural ʻike (knowledge) and lived experiences of food production from the lens of different areas, regions, and islands to weave a broader picture of the ‘Ohana Economy from which articulations of ho‘owaiwai—genuine wealth—can emerge.

(Photo by Craig James CC BY-NC)

Brent Kakesako is the executive director for the Hawai’i Alliance for Community-Based Economic Development (HACBED), a nonprofit intermediary that works to build the capacity of families and communities in Hawai’i and provide ongoing support so that they have choice and control to push for economic, environmental, and social justice.


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