Diversity, resilience, and abundance in Hawaiian agricultural systems
Hawai‘i represents an amazing array of climatic zones: from wet to dry, from young to old, and from coastal to mountaintop. Traditional Hawaiian agriculturalists adapted their crops and cropping systems in order to create thriving agricultural systems that supported significant populations and hierarchies, and were sustained for hundreds of years. Using empirically derived field data and experiential anecdotal evidence key adaptations are highlighted for the Kohala and Kona regions of Hawai‘i Islands. The Kohala agricultural system, which has well-developed soils, a huge rainfall gradient and high winds, presents very different opportunities and constraints than the Kona agricultural system, which is characterized by its very young soils. Using specific examples and supporting data and evidence, I highlight some ways in which Hawaiian agriculturalists adapted to very different climates, and what lessons might be translated global agriculture facing climate change.
Cropping systems, including crop type, agricultural infrastructure and practices, were adapted to maximize the resilience and productivity within different climates. In Kona agroecology was clearly applied to the landscape. Arboriculture allowed for greater cultivation of lands not suitable for annual crops, and analysis of yields shows that both environmental limitations and cultural preferences played a role in determining cropping system cutoffs. Infrastructural differences between Kohala and Kona were aligned so as to manage the dominant climate variable in each region. Water management was crucial prior in these rainfed systems. In Kohala observations show usage of mist capture and concentration of soil moisture; in Kona mulch was an essential practice to conserve soil moisture. These practices were fine-tuned; in Kona mulch depth significantly effects soil moisture, with too much or too little mulch reducing potential. Crops played a role in adapting to the climatic diversity, but played a larger role in resilience, practical usage, and cultural preference. To adapt to climate, resources are needed to create place specific crop assemblages and cropping systems, in-depth knowledge, and human capital to engage in management practices.