VIDEO: First Kalo Harvest in Kahoma Valley in 130 years
Story/Video Edit by Wendy Osher
Video by ʻAʻaliʻi Dukelow
After 130 years, kalo is growing again in Lahaina’s Kahoma Valley. Ka Malu O Kahalawai, a local nonprofit celebrated the landmark harvest in the company of supporters and water restoration advocates.
After years of work to restore the flow of water in Kahoma Valley, Maui residents, representatives from Kamehameha Schools and supporters gathered last year to plant kalo. On Friday the celebratory harvest took place, marking a return to food sustainability goals in West Maui.
Many called it a historical event and celebrated the return to ancestral lands to grow food and reconnect with the Native Hawaiian culture. The lo’i or taro patches in the valley were dry for decades because Kahoma Stream water had been diverted to irrigate sugar plantations.
Maui resident Tiare Lawrence led the last two years of community organizing and workdays at the site. She said, “I believe Kahoma can be a template for what food security and sustainability should look like across Hawaiʻi. Every time we have a community work group come, that vision started to come to life, slowly but surely.”
“We decided to start of small because we wanted to see what kind of varieties would take the best, and so now we know. We know what work is needed. We know how much maintenance is needed. We know how much wai is needed. But moving forward, with everything happening across the state, and the Commission on Water Resource Management meetings that are coming up, Kahoma is going to be a critical player in stream restoration across the state because of the data that we’re collecting,” said Lawrence.
“The agriculture infrastructure created by our kupuna still exist in many of our valleys. We just need to restore them,” said Lawrence.
Valley resident, Archie Kalepa said, “If water is not put back in the streams, we will lose what we have, and that is so important. I did not realize how important that was until I started coming up here–every day, once a week–checking the water, looking at the stream, looking at fish, knowing that the stream is alive. Touching the water–how cold it is.”
“When we first started this project, the water was gray, hot, warm, and nothing existed in that stream. We know for a fact, today, that the marine life not only exists in this stream, but where this stream enters the ocean, fish is thriving again,” said Kalepa. “The importance, the values of having this stream running, goes way beyond this taro patch.”
“Mother nature is so resilient if we give her life,” said Lawrence. “Those of us who are from Lahaina–who grew up here–our streams were dead. We never got to swim in rivers. The best award out of all of this is to see our keiki being able to swim in a river that we never got to swim in before–and it’s up to us to protect that. This day isn’t over. These meetings are still rolling out across the state, and other communities are going to need us to stand with them too,” she said.
“I’m a firm believer that Kahoma Valley can be the food basket of Lahaina that it once was one-hundred-plus years ago,” said Lawrence. “Kahoma needs to be that place where keiki get to build that connection to ʻāina. I feel like we’re missing a lot of that in our schools (and) in a lot of our kids. I know that with the kids that have been coming up here regularly, they have this sense of connection now to this place. And it’s so important that we instill that in our kids at a very young age.”