|“so that the fertile lands thrive and live on”|
I Ola Nā ʻĀina Momona means “so that the fertile lands thrive and live on”. I Ola Nā ʻĀina Momona is a non-profit organization rooted in the economic empowerment of smallholder farmers in the U.S. state of Hawaii. With 85% of Hawaii’s food supply imported from out-of-state resources due to widespread soil exhaustion from intensive plantation agriculture, I Ola Nā ʻĀina Momona educates smallholder farmers with three techniques (compost tea fertilizer, Korean natural farming, and permaculture) to remediate plantation soils quickly, cheaply, and in support of long-term soil fertility. In scaling up their farming practices, these smallholders have the power to support food security and rural development in Hawaii.
“Smallholders should be included as important custodians of natural resources and as entrepreneurs with the capacity to invest in natural assets and contribute to national and global production systems.” - International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD, 2013)
According to IFAD, smallholders manage over 80% of the world’s estimated 500 million small farms and provide over 80% of the food consumed, making them a key lifeline for reducing poverty and providing food security in the state of Hawaii. I Ola Nā ʻĀina Momona empowers smallholders in this capacity through farming education and advocacy against insecure land tenure, high transaction costs, and weak institutional support statewide.
“Increasing fragmentation of land, reduced investment support, and the marginalization of small farms in economic and development policy have left many smallholders vulnerable.” - United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP, 2013)
I Ola Nā ʻĀina Momona, at its core, is a social catalyst for providing smallholders with affordable long-term land leases, sustainable farming techniques to preserve land for future generations, and business support to compete in an evolving, tumultuous crop market. I Ola Nā ʻĀina Momona’s philosophy of “Aina,” a deep respect and love for Hawaii’s land, “Aloha,” mutual respect between major corporations, local businesses, and smallholders, and “Abundance,” our belief in financial comfort for smallholders, reaffirms the importance of smallholders in the larger industry of food production and choosing smallholders as a primary step toward promoting sustainable farming practices on a mass industry level.
Through a series of workshops, I Ola Nā ʻĀina Momona disseminates three farming techniques safely, efficiently, and at a low cost, across the State of Hawaii. These natural, sustainable farming practices harness the power of microorganisms to remediate exhausted plantation soils quickly and cheaply, providing greater opportunity to reduce Hawaii’s reliance on outside imports for crops, lowering food prices.
Compost tea is an inexpensive fertilizer made easily from locally sourced farm waste; some application rates are as low as $.04/acre (Ingham, 2011). Compost tea increases indicators of microbial activity in the soil, including increased amounts of plant growth factors, increased soil respiration, and increased levels of plant available nutrients (Radovich and Arancon, 2011).
Korean natural farming (KNF) is a centuries-old traditional agricultural practice that involves deliberate collection and culturing of naturally occurring soil microorganisms (Park and DuPonte, 2010). Using readily available carbohydrates such as sugar and rice farmers can propagate organisms collected from their own farm or nearby sources, and add them back into the soil in higher concentrations.
Permaculture is a farm design strategy aimed at creating self-renewing soil fertility by mimicking the structure of forest ecosystems. Permaculture takes advantage of the tendency of different plants to accumulate unique colonies of nutrient-fixing microorganisms by excreting specific root exudates, intentionally pairing plants with complementary needs and functions. Permaculture also requires less soil disturbance than conventional agriculture and can be designed for minimal compaction in order to optimize conditions for soil microorganisms and water retention.
Malian Lahey is a local Ka’u farmer, professionally trained in compost tea techniques, Korean natural farming, and permaculture. She’s studied under the renowned Dave Jacke at the Wild Meadows Farm in Pennsylvania and became certified by the Rodale Institute for Organic farming in soil food web analysis, compost tea techniques and soil microscopy. After founding Ka’u Specialty Inc. (KSI), a commodities brokerage firm for Ka’u farmers, Lahey, a third-generation commodities broker, recognized the depth of support needed in the Ka’u region and Hawaii-at-large for the economic empowerment and education of smallholder farmers. Noting that poverty and the need to satisfy immediate needs can drive smallholders to adopt damaging agricultural practices, resulting in soil erosion, nutrient depletion, water scarcity, and pollution (IFAD, 2013), she founded I Ola Nā ʻĀina Momona to address this issue, catalyze more farming opportunities in Hawaii, and complement KSI’s work in advocating for ethical trading, business, and financial outcomes for smallholders. KSI is an integral part of leveling the playing field between smallholders and large farms, along with the State of Hawaii, Hawaii Department of Agriculture, Hawaii Coffee Association, Farm Bureau, federal government, and other market players. Under Lahey’s leadership, I Ola Nā ʻĀina Momona adds sustainable farming practices to this movement and is working to provide greater land security for smallholders in Hawaii.
Malian Lahey, Owner, Ka`u Specialty LLC
Mike Klungness, Retired USDA Researcher Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center
Gail Kalani, Service Supervisor, Bank of Hawaii, Ka`u Branch
John Ah San, President, Palehua Ohana Cooperative, Coffee Farmer
Deborah Lynn Dickerson, Ka'u Forest Coffee
Elaine Ingham, Chief Scientist, Rodale Institute for Organic Farming
Dave Jacke, Author Edible Forest Gardens, founder, Dynamics Ecological Design
Christopher Trump, Operations Manager at Island Harvest, Inc. and Vice President of Cho Global Natural Farming Cooperative
Linda Oei, Managing Director, Singapore Tong Teik (Pte) Ltd
Carlos Cavallini, CEO of CMC Rubber Guatemala, former coffee broker, agroindustry expert in Central and South America Gerardo
Alberto de Leon, manager of FEDECOCAGUA, Guatemala's largest Fair Trade certified coffee cooperative
Michael Coleman, Owner, Aisling Analytics Pte Ltd, Singapore, Managing Director at the Merchant Commodities Fund
Carlos Mayorga de Leon, founder ODA Architecture Design Studio, Guatemala City
Mauricio Espinoza, Coffee Trader
Scott Fisher, Ph.D., Director of Conservation, Hawaiian Islands Land Trust
Anne Lochoff, Regional Business Director at McCann Erickson, global leader in marketing and advertising
I Ola Nā ʻĀina Momona – Local advocacy for a global greener economy centered on smallholders.