Restoring the He'eia wetland

By Cam Tran
Published On: Feb 26 2014 06:14:43 PM HST
Updated On: Feb 26 2014 09:03:56 PM HST

Volunteers aim to bring 400 acres in He'eia back to the way it looked like 100 years ago.

HE`EIA, Hawaii -

"There was a poi factory right across the street here," said longtime He'eia resident Alice Hewitt.  "The land was just pasture.  Pasture land and this was taro."

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Not so today.

"It wasn't like this.  It was a disaster," said Hewitt.

A disaster Hewitt is determined to turn around.

"It's going to take a lot of work and a lot of time and money to make it look like it was before," said Hewitt.

Now, local volunteers are weeding, raking and planting to restore this 400-acre wetland tucked away in the picturesque Ko'olaus.

"What you see behind us now is a lot of invasive non-native grass and eventually you'll see taro, lo'i and more," said Kanekoa Kukea-Shultz of Kako'o 'Oiwi.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority leased the wetlands in He'eia to non-profit Kako'o 'Oiwi.  With the help of volunteers, they will bring the land back to the way it looked like 100 years ago.

"Opportunities and farms like this give us the opportunity to bring them back to their culture where they learn to give back to the land and be a blessing to a farm and to the community just by having them come in and pull weeds and get in the mud," said Tami Holschuh of Life 360 Network.

Right now, there are about two active acres of lo'i, but as they continue to plant taro everyday, they hope to expand it to 150 acres.

"If we could do 20 acres right now, we'd basically double capacity for the island of Oahu for taro, so that's our near-term goal.  The 150 to 180 acres is our long-term goal," said Kukea-Shultz.

To provide even more food sustainability, community-based organizations will also grow papayas, breadfruit and banana.  A return to the aina, our kupuna remember.

"I am happy our ancestors grew up here, so they looking down at us.  They gonna make it work," said Hewitt.

The second Saturday every month, Kako'o 'Oiwi invites the public to help them clear the land and weeds.

For info on how you can help, you can email info@kakoooiwi.org.

PHOTOS: He'eia wetlands in development

Click here to see more photos of the He'eia wetland.

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