Restoration of 'āina malo'o on Hawai'i island: Expanding biocultural relationships

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Before European contact, Native Hawaiian agriculture was highly adapted to place and expressed a myriad of forms. Although the iconic lo'i systems (flooded irrigated terraces) are often portrayed as traditional Hawaiian agriculture, other forms of agriculture were, in sum, arguably more important. While pockets of traditional agricultural practices have persevered over the 240 years since European arrival, the revival of indigenous methods and crops has substantially increased since the 1970s. While engagement in lo'i restoration and maintenance has been a core vehicle for communication and education regarding Hawaiian culture, it does not represent the full spectrum of Hawaiian agriculture and, on the younger islands of Hawai'i and Maui in particular, does not accurately represent participants' ancestral engagement with 'āina malo'o (dry land, as opposed to flooded lands). These "dryland" forms of agriculture produced more food than lo'i, especially on the younger islands, were used to produce a broader range of resource crops such as for fiber, timber, and medicine, were more widespread across the islands, and formed the economic base for the powerful Hawai'i Island chiefs who eventually conquered the archipelago. The recent engagement in the restoration of these forms of agriculture on Hawai'i Island, compared to the more longstanding efforts to revive lo'i-based cultivation, is challenging due to highly eroded knowledge systems. However, their restoration highlights the high level of place-based adaptation, demonstrates the scale and political landscape of pre-European Hawai'i, and provides essential elements in supporting the restoration of Hawaiian culture.

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Sustainability (Switzerland)

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