Photo: Participants from 25 ‘āina-based organizations
The Ka‘a i ka Lawa workshop brought participants from 25 ‘āina-based organizations together. - Photo: Courtesy Kua‘āina Ulu ‘Auamo

“Natural and cultural resources have invisible human webs all around them,” says Chris Cramer, founder and president of the Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center, a local non-profit that stewards Kānewai and Kalauha‘iha‘i fishponds in East O‘ahu. “Collective gatherings provide the GPS to navigate human pathways towards caring for our resources.”

One of 40 participants from 25 ‘āina-based organizations across the state who gathered last month for a three-day workshop on administrative capacity-building, Cramer is familiar with one of the questions that has brought these community members together: How can we sustain the work for the next generation?

In addition to hands-on stewardship work, grassroots communities across Hawai‘i work hard to build up, sustain and manage organizational foundations in their efforts to care for Hawai‘i and her natural resources.

The Ka‘a i ka Lawa workshop, which opened on September 21 at Camp Mokulē‘ia in Waiālua, O‘ahu, was organized by local non-profit Kua‘āina Ulu ‘Auamo (KUA) and sponsored through the Office of Hawaiian (OHA) ‘Ahahui Grant Program, with some additional funding from Kamehameha Schools (KS).

“Our work could not progress without the collaborative spirit and support of forward-looking organizations like OHA, KS and the Castle Foundation,” said Kevin Chang, Executive Director of KUA. “These funders believe in empowering the roots of our community, the kīpuka, or rural areas where much of traditional cultural knowledge remains.”

Through small breakout groups, plenary sessions and Q&A with professionals from OHA, KS, the Castle Foundation and the Hawai‘i Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations (HANO), participants were able to exchange ideas, share experiences, ask questions and seek out information on a range of topics including volunteer coordination, insurance and liability and funding strategies.

The capacity-building workshop was intended to provide the space and time community members needed to discuss administrative aspects of their ‘āina-based work and to collectively think about how it can be applied to resource management in Hawai‘i. Through these types of networked gatherings, community members are also able to empower each other, share challenges and lessons learned, and seek pathways to overcome systemic barriers together.

“We believe it is in the kīpuka, when nurtured, that the seeds to heal our island’s lands and waters and improve our quality of life will best germinate,” says Kevin Chang of KUA.

The Ka‘a I Ka Lawa workshop brought together three intergenerational networks of families, practitioners and organizations actively engaged in malama ‘āina (the reciprocal practice of caring for and using natural resources), loko i‘a (fishpond) and limu (native Hawaiian seaweed) restoration efforts across the state: E Alu Pū, Hui Mālama Loko I‘a, and the Limu Hui.

Photo: Participants from 25 ‘āina-based organizations
The Ka‘a i ka Lawa workshop brought participants from 25 ‘āina-based organizations together. – Photo: Courtesy Kua‘āina Ulu ‘Auamo