Partner Spotlight: Kohala Center

Kaʻiana Runnels, Mahiʻai Education Specialist

In Hawaiian language and thought, the word ōhāhā carries a responsibility to ensure all our offsprings including plants, animals and children are abundantly healthy. It is from this place that The Kohala Center birthed the Ōhāhā High School AgriCULTURE Program. It is designed to reconnect students with their ancestral relationship to food and deepen kinship with ʻāina (land, that which sustains us) through Hawaiian thought and practice so they flourish in life. By cultivating within our ʻōpio (youth) a strong sense of Hawaiian identity, our hope is that we create future mahiʻai (farmers) who can successfully navigate career pathways while fulfilling their kuleana (responsibility) to ʻāina, ʻohana (family), and lāhui (community).

Each of our Ōhāhā week-long sessions include experiential learning on our farm and service learning to neighboring farms and cultural sites. Some of the highlights of our Fall session 2019 included learning kuʻi kalo-a traditional method for processing taro and how to use the Hawaiian moon calendar or kaulana mahina to determine the best planting and harvesting cycle. We had many in-depth discussions on sustainability and its manifestation in Hawaiʻi drawing on knowledge that comes from a traditional Hawaiian land management ssytem that was sustainable for generations.

One of our students is Hayden Konanui-Tucker. He is from a long line of mahiʻai, but sadly his tūtū kāne (grandfather) passed away before he could pass on all of his ʻike kūpuna (ancestral knowledge) to his moʻopuna (grandchild). His tūtū did, however, pass on some of that ʻike to me. I had the privilege of giving it back to Hayden. He came in very hungry for knowledge and has returned to Ōhāhā a few times since his first session as a freshman.

Hayden understands so much of what we teach. He took on his first role as an alakaʻi (leader) during the Fall session. I allowed him to lead many of the kalo-related activities. He thrived and the other students really loved listening to him as he carefully taught the ʻike that he received from many of his tūtū’s students. Upon completion of the Fall session, Hayden shared that the program increased his sense of identity as a Hawaiian and also increased his knowledge of Hawaiian plant foods. He excitedly said, “It gave me chances to be a better alakaʻi.” He further noted that his Hawaiian culture, “gives purpose to life, and shows how we should live our life.” He implements many of the cultural values and morals we strive so hard to teach the youth.

The Kohala Center Food Preparation

Hayden uses his culture, ʻike kūpuna, and moʻokūʻauʻau (genealogy) to implement change. He indeed is one of Hawaiʻi’s future alakaʻi. Ōhāhā connects ʻike kūpuna to our rising generation, which in turn helps Hawaiʻi thrive.

The Kohala Center (TKC) is a 501(c) (3) community-based organization turning ancestral knowledge and research into action across the fields of conservation, education, agriculture and leadership