Waiakeakua Forest Restoration Project

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The Living Life Source Foundation was awarded an ʻAhahui Grant from OHA for its Waiakeakua Reforestion project to continue the work to restore native koa and ʻōhiʻa, which once grew tall in Mānoa Valley.

A community planting day, last December, brought together over 50 volunteers to clear overgrown vegetation and plant about 200 native plants. Large pots of koa, and alaheʻe, were carried to the planting site along a muddy trail with a small stream running through the path. Shoes we’re held captive in the deep wet soil while volunteers transported large and small pots to their destination. Most people took off their mud caked shoes and preferred to grip the ʻāina with their toes.

The stream flowing alongside and through the planting site is called Waiakeakua and means water of the gods. The wai, fresh water, from this stream was historically reserved for high chiefs. According to a moʻolelo (story) Kāne and Kanaloa were traveling about Oʻahu and Kāne, who is associated with wai (and drinking ʻawa with Kanaloa) opened a stream of water in Mānoa with his walking stick.

The restoration of the Waiakeakua Forest began over 10 years ago when Uncle Bruce Keaulani and Aunty Kehau Lum began to steward a section of the land in the Mānoa watershed. They planted ʻulu (breadfruit), kalo, ʻōhiʻa ʻai (mountain apple) and other food and medicinal plants to establish sustainable food resources for the community. In addition they planted koa, ʻōhiʻa lehua, kukui, loulu and other trees that can be used for future native reforestation efforts.

The vast number of albizia trees in Mānoa make it challenging to reestablish a native forest. Introduced to Hawaiʻi in 1917, albizia (Falcataria moluccana) was used to reforest areas across the state.

Matthew Lynch, the director of the UH Mānoa Sustainability department, approached Uncle Bruce in 2021 with an idea to remove some albizia trees in the area and use the lumber for a house building project. Together with the Albizia Project they removed 15 large albizia trees, allowing sunlight and space to grow more resources.

Uncle Bruce shared at the end of the community planting day that he hopes one day koa will be harvested for a canoe from the planting being done now. He hopes future generations will see native koa trees thriving once again in Mānoa Valley and for the forest to be resilient in the face of climate change.

“We are deeply grateful to OHA for its support of this initiative through the ʻAhahui Event Grants program,” expressed Yuko Barretto, a dedicated and administrative volunteer for the reforestation project.

To support the establishment and growth of the native plants visit www.waiakeakuaforest.com for more info. Work days are on the second Sunday each month.

OHA Grants

Grant funding is distributed through community nonprofit organizations and is not awarded directly to individuals.

For more information on OHA’s Grants program visit www.oha.org/grants.