Hawaii: Moving Forward Together

The community E Alu Pū Global Gathering (28-31 August 2016), hosted by the E Alu Pū network and convened by Kua’ Āina Ulu ‘Auamo (KUA), started on 28 August in a campsite at the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center in Hale’iwa on Oahu. E Alu Pu means “Move Forward Together”, and is a network of Native Hawaiians (Kanaka Maoli) that share the vision that to nurture community is both a responsibility and a privilege. They work by coming together to learn directly from one another on how to better care for the land.

Hawaii Fishpond

The community E Alu Pū Global Gathering (28-31 August 2016), hosted by the E Alu Pū network and convened by Kua’ Āina Ulu ‘Auamo (KUA), started on 28 August in a campsite at the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center in Hale’iwa on Oahu. E Alu Pu means “Move Forward Together”, and is a network of Native Hawaiians (Kanaka Maoli) that share the vision that to nurture community is both a responsibility and a privilege. They work by coming together to learn directly from one another on how to better care for the land.

This was the first year the E Alu Pū Global Gathering brought in international participants - ranging from indigenous and community leaders, to practitioners, researchers and supporters of communities from 30+ countries. People from as far away as Madagascar and Papua New Guinea’s New Ireland islands attended. The idea was that participants will spend valuable days together ahead of the IUCN World Conservation Congress (WCC), learning from each other in order to accelerate their own efforts in caring and protecting the lands and waters of their places. Many of the participants are linked by common geographies, others by related cultures, but most by common efforts of their communities for taking care of their landscapes and seascapes.

“The reason we organized this Gathering is to convene a conversation with people of place to further the mission of KUA, to provide a safe space for people who do. One of the themes emerging from this Gathering is that it is a time for action, not more talk. We are here and we are not going away”, said Makaala Kaaumoana, founder and board member of KUA.

On the second day of the Gathering participants were called to join in a morning of fishpond restauration. The Native Hawaiians have practiced a unique form of aquaculture through the development of fishponds, typically built in the shallow areas of a reef flat. A low lava rock wall is built to separate if from the sea and various species of edible fish are kept within, making them an easy catch. On this rainy and misty morning our group was assembled, standing shoulder to shoulder with the locals and taught how to move even the heaviest of rocks by working as a team, moving them along hand to hand to a pile at the end. It was amazing for all to experience how when working together they could quickly and effectively move rocks that they could not imagine holding normally. Next the group was moved into the pond where smaller groups were guided in the making of fish houses. These were created by placing circles of lava rocks, the base in the water, the final circle above, allowing small holes through which the baby fish could retreat if predators came over the wall or birds flew in. The last task involved the laying of the garlands of seaweed made the night before around these fish houses, thereby feeding the young fish and guiding them to these new homes. All throughout the Hawaiians kept the group going and had them participate in chants. By sharing this experience they all learned first-hand the truly collective and community-based work that goes into the restoration of these fishponds, this site over 600 years old.

“It was the spirit of the togetherness. The weight on our shoulders would be lighter if we were together like this in our quest for sustainability” said John Aini, from the community organization Ailan Awareness, Papua New Guinea, who has been struggling to get the communities of New Ireland to be united in their work for ensuring that what they have now will be available for future generations. “When I will come back to our islands I plan to tell our communities that they are not alone. That the world is out there to help us.”

Yesterday was the closing of the Gathering and all participants came back to Honolulu prepared for the start of WCC, energized by a strong sense of community found within these past few days.

IUCN’s Social Policy Unit has teamed up with The Christensen Fund and the Helmsley Charitable Trust to bring a group of indigenous and community participants to this Gathering as part of their participation in the WCC.

Authors: Miriam Anne Frank and Helena Clavero Sousa, IUCN Social Policy Unit.

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