Celebrating Mālama ʻāina At Honolulu Community College

Five years after the start of Honolulu Community College’s Ka Māla o Niuhelewai, the small garden is ringing with the sound of students pounding fresh poi with kalo grown right on site.

Every April, the Honolulu CC community comes together for the college’s Annual Hoʻolauleʻa to celebrate the bounty of the garden and to help raise awareness about Hawaiian culture and sustainability.

Dry kalo

“The purpose of the garden is to promote food security in Hawaiʻi, to supplement our food and to create more awareness for the young ones,” said Mark Alapaki Luke, chair of Honolulu CC’s Hawaiian studies program. “We also promote organic growing as well as sustainability.”

The garden was established in 2011 and is maintained by students, faculty, staff and community members. Honolulu CC’s Annual Hoʻolauleʻa includes a wide range of activities from poi pounding, weaving, to preparing food in the imu, or underground oven.

An outdoor classroom

“People who come out to our little māla back here, they take away learning about how Hawaiians lived and how they grew their food,” said Honolulu CC student Vicky Desantos. “When we grow our kalo in the ground, we’re actually sustaining ourselves by eating the food that we grow.”

Weaving with palm leaves

Following sustainable practices, people got a chance to weave their own food plates out of palm leaves.

“It’s a program that’s collaborated with other programs, carpentry, welding, liberal arts, and we all work together to promote mālama ʻāina,” added Luke.

Serving as an outdoor classroom, the garden includes 20 varieties of dry land kalo. Honolulu CC has also partnered with schools and community organizations to help educate the public about sustainability and taking care of the land.

“I feel that being here at the school as a student that we are like a little hidden gem, and we invite everyone to come out and learn,” said Desantos.

Added Luke, “The kūpuna from this ʻāina, the ancestors, they are really reaching out to everybody else as well and teaching us. And we’re learning, so we’re going to continue to learn.”

More on Ka Māla o Niuhelewai

Located towards the piko, or center of Honolulu CC, Ka Māla o Niuhelewai has received the Scenic Hawaiʻi Betty Crocker Landscape Award for Xeriscape in 2012, and most recently, the Honolulu Community College Sustainability Award at the 2014 Hawaiʻi Sustainability in Higher Education Summit.


For more photos, see the Honolulu CC Flickr album.