At the Indigenous Crop Biodiversity Festival on Maui, I was reminded by taro and kava farmer Jerry Konanui, that certain traditional plants sacred to indigenous cultures are respected as if they are ancestors.
Those which have been temporarily lost from the community are sought out, and as Jerry put it, “We want to bring these ancestors home to live among us once more.” And so, he searches for old varieties not only in abandoned or feral plantings of “kalo” on the Hawaiian Islands, but looks for these ancient ones on other Pacific islands, in botanical gardens, seed banks and tissue culture labs.
As Jerry’s colleague and festival director Penny Levin affirms, restoring “diversity gives us resilience. Our goal is to move toward abundance.” Together with many other Hawaiians, they see these renewing diversity in indigenous food crops as one of many means to potentially “restore agricultural production after a natural disaster” on order to ensure long-term food security among their people.
Food diversity, cultural values, spiritual practice, traditional knowledge, citizen science and youth education are all facets of these efforts to keep communities adapting in the face of climate change, instead of being victimized or diminished by it.
Brother Coyote, OEF