Maui green belt

We have all heard by now that HC&S is winding down production and will be having its last harvest of sugar cane at the end of 2016. The big question now for everyone that lives in Maui is what will happen to the thousands of acres of land that has been kept green by the sugar cane?

The Maui Tomorrow Foundation, a local environmental advocacy organization that has been a persuasive voice for responsible planning decisions for 26 years, recently released the report, Mālama ‘Āina: A Conversation About Maui’s Farming Future.

The report, that was written by Permaculture Design International LLC, can be downloaded from the new website, futureofmauii.org, Here members of the public, local business leaders, farmers and political candidates are invited to present their own comments and ideas about what might be grown on 36,000 acres of the island’s most important farmland. They encourage us to share videos (after the website is updated) about what we think would be the best use of this land.

“We believe that this unique opportunity to expand the vision of what’s possible for agriculture on Maui can result in a win-win-win situation for all concerned,” said Albert Perez, Executive Director of Maui Tomorrow. “A win for the people of Maui; a win for the precious `āina that it is our responsibility to care for; and a win in terms of the increased financial benefit that new uses of this farmland can produce, while keeping our local economy diversified. By moving beyond sugar to more sustainable uses, we estimate that this land can easily support more than double the 675 employees HC&S is planning to lay off, while generating at least triple the benefit for our local economy. Regenerative agriculture can also help to capture atmospheric carbon, thus offsetting climate change instead of contributing to it. By becoming a center for regenerative agricultural education, Maui can also kick-start a new industry and share our knowledge with the world.”

Alika Atay, a part-Hawaiian farmer who combines permaculture with traditional farming practices and was consulted for the report, looks forward to hearing various viewpoints about the most beneficial ways forward for the sugar plantation lands. “As guardians of our island’s environment, we must remember our values. This is an opportunity to go back to the values that Maui people were raised with,” said Atay. “Mālama Āina, Aloha Āina – this is how we were raised. We need to go back to the future! Hawai`i used to be 100 percent self-sufficient, but now we import 90 percent of our food. This report marks the beginning of a return to those values.”

“I want to thank A&B for the important role they have played in our local economy,” said Atay, “and for having created opportunity for generations of their employees. Although the closure of the sugar plantation is a painful episode for many, we must embrace the future and open ourselves to this important opportunity to move with aloha for each other toward a sustainable, self-reliant, chemical-free agricultural future.”

If you have been paying attention, hemp is a mono crop that many are encouraging to be grown in place of the sugar cane. Bills have been passed through the first stages of the legislative process led by Kaniela Ing to allow the legal growing and production of industrial hemp in Hawaii. A plant that can be grown organically and yield high profits, as hemp can be used to make hundreds of products.

Separately, Organic farmland is also being proposed in the Community Organic Farmland Initiative, spearheaded by SHAKA Movement co-founders Satya & Bruce Douglas, with many members (over 10,000) of our community already signing the petition.

Maui is also suffering from an affordable housing crisis so development is also a possibility, and unfortunately for many who supported the GMO moratorium, so is the option to sell/lease the land to agro-chemical companies, such as, Monsanto, so they can further their research on genetically modified crops. This is a critical time for the future of Maui. If you would like for your voice to be heard go to www.futureofmaui.org and leave a comment. This is a very important watershed moment for Maui, and for all future generations who will call this beautiful island their home. So get involved, vote wisely and let’s create a sustainable Maui!

Image Credit: Happy Bandits

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