Maui Business

Project MAHI‘AI Gets $58K for Native-Grown Food/Product Distribution

August 29, 2021, 7:42 AM HST
* Updated August 31, 12:53 PM
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Kēōkea homestead farmer Hi`ilei Martinson has been named project manager of the OHA-funded Project MAHIʻAI. Set to debut later this year, the program will be an Amazon-style system of farmer-to-consumer online ordering and in-person delivery of native-grown farm-and-ranch products. PC: courtesy.

A Kēōkea homesteader was project manager of a $58,395 grant program funded by the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Theresa Hiʻilei Martinson will assume her duties Sept. 1 for the OHA-funded Project MAHIʻAI, an Amazon-style distribution system for native-grown products.

The Upcountry Maui-based nonprofit, Paʻupena Community Development Corporation, is executing the grant project.

Martinson is a Keokea homelands farmer of taro, bananas, squash and native mamaki tea. She is a Kamehameha Schools Kapālama alumna with undergraduate and M.A. in Hawaiian studies degrees from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Martinson will help design and will operate a Project MAHIʻAI online platform for consumers to order and for farmers and ranchers to deliver their products, including vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs and dairy.

The program will provide garden-fresh produce, such as mangoes and dragon fruit from a native Hawaiian veteran farmer at Waiohuli homestead; eggplant and tomatoes from a Kēōkea homelands cultivator, and honey from a Waiehu Kou 4 homestead beekeeping family. Products will carry the Grown by the Native Community label.

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“COVID has changed the economic landscape,” said Thomas Emmsley of Waiehu Kou 4 homestead’s honey-producing firm, Kīhāpai Horticultural LLC. “Thus, native farmers need an initiative like Project MAHIʻAI,” he said.

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The Maui program is set to go online on or after Oct. 1 and will be open to islandwide consumers, including visitors.

For information, contact Martinson at 808-779-5143 or email: [email protected]

OHA funding supports the Native Hawaiian community through OHA Iwi Kupuna Repatriation & Reinterment Program grants. The grants reinforce and strengthen Native Hawaiian ʻohana (family), moʻomeheu (culture) and ʻāina (land and water). The purpose of Project MAHIʻAI is to serve the Native Hawaiian lāhui (nation or people) in alignment with the strategic foundations, directions and outcomes of a 15-year Mana I Mauoli Ola (Power to Native Life) Strategic Plan.

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Paʻupena is a beneficiary organization under the auspices of the 1921 Hawaiian Homes Commission Act federal trust that provides the 203,000-acre Hawaiian homesteading program. The mission of the CDC is to provide services, training and advocacy to empower fellow Hawaiian Homes trust beneficiaries to build homes and self-sufficient communities; see website www.paupena.org .

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