Hawaii imports more than 85% percent of its food. So if extreme weather disrupts shipping, it could have serious consequences for the state.

“You just kind of grow up knowing that … we only have like a week of food on the shelves, and if the barge doesn’t come, you know, we’re in big trouble,” says Natalie Kurashima.

While a PhD student at the University of Hawaii, Kurashima studied whether Indigenous farming methods could help reduce this food insecurity, especially as the climate changes.

“I always was wondering,” says Kurashima, “how can we learn from our ‘ike kūpuna, our ancestral knowledge, to address Hawaii’s sustainability issues today?”

She says before colonization, Indigenous farmers grew crops in areas that people today would not. They farmed terraced land that had to be flooded during cultivation, and grew root vegetables under banana and coconut trees.

Those methods were productive. Kurashima’s study suggests that they could have produced enough food for 86% of Hawaii’s current population.

So if implemented today, Indigenous farming methods could make Hawaii’s food system more resilient to extreme weather and help the state sustain itself in the future as it did in the past.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.