In the documentary Abundant Land, local residents discuss how erosion from ranching and mismanagement of the land have gradually deteriorated the soil, impacted the islands climate, and damaged the islands reefs. From pineapple plantations to ranching to growing and testing GMO corn seeds using large quantities of chemicals, thousands of acres of the islands topsoil has been stripped of life, creating barren fields. “These farming practices are kind of the antithesis of sustainable agriculture,” says local resident Karen Holt. As a result, the windy island has become prone to dust storms causing worry among residents who don’t want to be exposed to chemicals in the dust. The limited supply of freshwater on the island has been drained from the streambeds and dust and silt runoff have entered into the ocean, affecting the islands reefs and fish ponds.
In the words of Malia Akutagawa, a Moloka’i local, “One of the things that marks us as Hawaiians on Moloka’i is that we fight for this land” (Abundant Land). The locals on Moloka’i, with their long history of activism and community engagement in the islands agricultural and environmental politics, are eager to be proactive about what happens with the land and find a buyer that understands and respects their vision. In a community meeting hosted by the We Are Moloka'i Pule O'o group in October, speaker Matt Yamashita discussed the issue. “How do we attract a buyer that makes sense for this island? And what makes sense for this island?” He asked. “The residents of this island have been creating plans…[that] look at what the future should be for the island, what makes sense for us culturally?… environmentally?… economically? And when we look at all the plans we see that there is a common vision.”
Having that common vision is essential if the land is to be successfully run in a way that supports the local community, promotes sustainable agriculture, benefits the natural ecology, and reestablishes Moloka’i as “the land of plenty.” That is exactly what the We Are Moloka'i Pule O'o group are trying to do through their community meetings, Unity walks, and outreach. And they do have a plan, detailed in a report that surpasses 800 pages and includes the Community-based Master Land Use Plan for Moloka’i Ranch, as well as various surveys, reports, impact assessments and mitigation measures. (The Document can be found here: http://files.hawaii.gov/luc/dockets/a06764molokai/a06764deisa.pdf)
The community is prepared. They know what they want. Perhaps that is why multiple listings for the property have a buyer beware notice- buyers know that they’ll have to butt heads with the local community if they don’t comply. In the same October meeting, Matt Yamashita gave a warning. “We want to let potential, prospective buyers know that if you’re thinking about buying Moloka’i Ranch, you’re not just buying a piece of property, you’re coming into a community… a community that knows exactly what they want and exactly what’s good for us... And we will fight if it’s wrong. We have a long history of fighting for what is right.”
By Sofia Daniels, Abundant Land: Soil, Seeds and Sovereignty