Plantation: Sustainability

The ability to protect land and water resources from depletion and still provide the materials needed by the people is called sustainability. How did the plantation system of land management affect the sustainability of the ahupua'a of Nawiliwili Bay.

Sustainability draws from material in the History of Forestry on Hawai'i by Mike Robinson .

In the beginning, plantations had short term objectives: getting and clearing land for their crop, and using the existing land and water resources to maximize their profit. The forests were stripped for firewood to trade, and to supply the new mills. Wild cattle added to the destruction of forests, aided by ranchers introducing alien grasses for pasture that took over native forest. (Robinson)
As lands were cleared for fields of sugar cane, water was diverted for irrigation. The effect of diverting more than 50% of the stream flow may have destroyed the native plants along the stream. (Robinson) Some maka'ainana abandoned their lo'i because of no water, or cattle depredation. Large irrigation projects sent water out of the watershed, never to return. (Wilcox)
Tunnel from Sugar Water
photo by D. Franzen

The conversion of lo'i into rice for export created a shortage of poi. (Silva)
Nawiliwili rice farm below what is
Kaua'i High School today
Photo courtesy of the Kaua'i Historical Society
Around 1880, the sugar industry realized that the loss of forest was affecting its water supply. This new concern for the watershed led to the replanting of forest areas with exotic species that were not as efficient as the native forest at sustaining the stream flow. (Robinson)
G.N. Wilcox was the first sugar planter
on Kaua'i to begin reforestation
The sustainability of the land and water resources at Nawiliwili Bay was affected by plantation management. The ahupua'a were no longer viewed as a single unit. The head was no longer connected to the tail, mauka to makai. Decisions made on the basis of short term goals, or profit, depleted the forest, water supply, and lifestyle of the maka'ainana. Let's take a break from all this serious environmental stuff and visit the harbor.
Created June 2001