(Media release) — The Pohoiki Community Garden Project is a grassroots effort to create a community garden in the area adjacent to Isaac Hale Beach Park. Project Organizer Iwani Kaiwi is committed to helping those in need and the surrounding community to develop sustainable eating and living habits, as well as restore the Pelekumu Lagoon.
“These efforts will educate our keiki, and create a culturally and agriculturally based environment for them to grow up in,” said Kaiwi. “Our mission is to create extensive ethnobotanical and edible gardens and orchards, processing areas, and gathering areas. Our vision is of a cultural center that offers the public the opportunity to grow and process their own food and goods, utilize traditional Hawaiian practices, and strengthen the values and pride in our community.” He says the plan is to provide a place for youth to connect with practitioners to implement sustainability and pass on the traditional lifestyles of the Hawaiian people, for generations to come.
The property is owned by Kealoha Estate. The trustee for the property, Ku‘ulei Kealoha-Cooper, leased the property to the PCGP organizer Iwani Kaiwi. “We are thrilled about this opportunity. Iwani is very eleu (energetic, lively, active). The property was trashed by the community- a dumping and squatting ground for years . For my family, this project provides great hope for the next generation and the future of our community. Iwani’s knowledge of our culture and drive was a deciding factor. My grandparents would be very pleased that we gave Iwani this opportunity to pursue his dreams- he is a man of action. We are proud to a part of his efforts.”
In March, Hawaii Island OHA representative Bob Lindsey awarded the Pohoiki Community Garden Project (PCGP) $3,000. The money was used to purchase one year of public liability insurance, a weed whacker, chainsaw (as well as fuel and oil), machetes, sickles, gloves, trash bags, spray paint, rope, digital camera, and a utility trailer. Rusted, rotting cars were towed away.
This parcel, which is zoned for agriculture, has areas of heritage trees that will be preserved with this project. The condition of the forested areas has some challenges, however. There is a lot of abandoned waste, and there are some trees that can strategically be pruned or removed in order to improve access to the lagoon and remove the waste. Years ago, Kealoha-Cooper’s grandmother Miulan Pelekumu Young-Kealoha had severe arthritis that was significantly relieved after soaking in the lagoons warm water. This year, volunteers helped with the removal of over 200 lbs of rubbish, as well as small debris from tide changes coming into ponds. .
The area of the future garden is a former papaya field that has been a dumping/squatting site for at least two decades. It was considerably overgrown. After attempting to hand-clear and weedwhack, it was discovered that the dirt was covered by a large amount of abandoned waste.
On June 1st, 2013, the organizers of the PCGP partnered with the non-profit organization Malama O Puna to participate in the Ka Ipu Aina program, Matson Company’s program to remove waste for the ‘aina. With the help of 18 volunteers, they were able to remove 1.7 tons of dumped rubbish. The litter included car parts (seats, doors, batteries, an entire engine, radiators, tires, rims), tents, tarps, pots and pans, a queen sized mattress, two couches, a recliner, metal roofing, propane tanks, area carpets, a rotted picnic table, and about twenty 50-gallon bags of household trash. Matson dropped off a container for three days. Then they took it to the Hilo landfill to be unloaded and cleaned by the volunteers. They paid all the dumping fees, and offer an additional $1000 grant upon completion of the clean up. All of this rubbish, most of which seemed to be the remnants of an unauthorized living area, was hidden below a layer of plant growth in a one acre section.
Before the June 1st cleanup, the project could not safely involve the youth of the community- the nature of the litter posed a risk. It is now safe to involve youth in making the vision reality. With tools donated by Auntie Madie Greene, owner of Pahoa Puna Buy & Sell, they were able to clear the rest of the rubbish trees and bushes in the garden area. Now that is has been removed, they were able to use a portion of the Matson grant to rent a bobcat, and spread a load of cinder generously donated by Sanfords Service Center.
The PCGP is now able to progress to the next phase of the community garden development: creating raised beds, composting areas, and planting trees. “We have hope that the whole community will help with this effort,” said Kealoha-Cooper. “Those that can, please help. We must take care of each other.“ If you would like to contribute to the Pohoiki Community Garden Project, please feel free to contact Project Organizer Iwani Kaiwi.
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