Breaking the Silos: Collective Insights for Community Stewardship in Hawaiʻi

Jul 25, 2018

Participants in the annual E Alu Pu gathering help repair a traditional thatched house in Waimanalo. E Alu Pu is a network linking 35 communities from across Hawai'i to increase their effectiveness in managing local cultural and natural resources.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

The beauty of Hawaiʻi draws visitors from around the world. But caring for the state’s natural resources is a constant challenge for many. Some of those who are caretakers are coming together to help each other—and help the land as well. HPR’s Ku’uwehi Hiraishi reports. 

Tucked away near the base of the Koʻolau Mountains in Waimānalo, volunteers repair a traditional Hawaiian thatched house. 

Volunteers help repair the corners of Waimanalo's Hale Limu Lipu'upu'u.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

Some drag dried loulu palms across the the pebble-laden floor while others hoist them up ladders, fastening them to wooden frames to patch up holes.

“The hardest part is the corners,” says Scotty Garlough, “Once we get that done, we can move onto the faces. The faces are easier.”

Garlough helps repair Waimānalo’s Hale Limu Līpuʻupuʻu. He’s usually busy teaching lashing and thatching at Hoʻoulu ʻĀina in Kalihi. 

But over the weekend, Garlough joined a gathering of the who’s who of Hawaiʻi’s stewardship community dedicated to protecting the island’s lands and waters.


Volunteers use loulu palms to patch up the thatching.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

“This gathering helps us to get to know each other,” says Sol Kahoʻohalahala.

He flew in from Lānaʻi for the gathering of E Alu Pū – a statewide network of 35 community-based organizations focused on preserving Hawaiʻi’s natural and cultural resources.

E Alu Pū began 15 years ago with the idea that communities could benefit from the opportunity of sharing best practices and airing mutual frustrations.

Sol Kaho'ohalahala shares some of the challenges and successes he's had in stewarding the land and waters of his island - Lana'i. He participates in the annual gathering of similar community organizations to gain a better understanding of how to best manage the resources in his community.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

“The communities that have similar situations can understand from me, my island’s story, my island’s concerns,” says Kahoʻohalahala, “And then what we’re trying to do to help fix it. That our successes can be something that’s relevant to their challenges.”

Big Island resident Kawika Lewis never heard of E Alu Pū until this year. He, his wife Kaipuaʻala and their children and grandchildren have been running ʻĀina University in Paukaʻa for 6 years.

“Words cannot even explain the opportunity that my ʻohana and I have to see 35 plus organizations on the same page so to speak,” says Lewis, “Sometimes jumping those same hurdles it seems so awesome. And we hope to come back again.”

Presley Wann flew in from flood-devastated Hāʻena. He’s experienced first-hand the value of networking with other communities in E Alu Pū. His organization helps run the state’s first designated community-based subsistence fishing area on Kauaʻi’s north shore.

Gathering participants close out a day of ocean-related stewardship activities at Kaiona Beach Park in Waimanalo. The group helped restore part of a turtle pond called Pahonu as well as some native limu or seaweed.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

“You know if it wasn’t for this organization, guarantee we would have still been working on our community-based subsistence fishing area,” says Wann, “You know it’s for advocating for each other no matter what.”

As we spoke, petitions were being circulated seeking support for another community-based subsistence fishing area designation for Moʻomomi on Molokaʻi.

“We’re a political power here and we don’t even realize what it is,” says Wann, “This is it. This is the beginning of a huge movement.”

Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

This year hundreds of participants descended upon Waimānalo for E Alu Pū. ʻIlima Ho-Lastimosa, founder of God’s Country Waimānalo helped host the gathering.

“All of us as kanaka, no matter where we live,” says Ho-Lastimosa, “whether it be Waimānalo, Waiʻanae, Wailuku, Waikāne, we all have our skills...”

And by banding together, the collective impact can create systemic change in preserving Hawaiʻi’s natural and cultural resouces.