East Hawai`i `Ulu Planting and Intercultural Sharing Program

In late 2014, HACBED and Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Pāhoa conducted community asset mapping exercises for the Pāhoa area. Widespread limitations in transportation and access to land quickly became apparent. These problems have made the preservation of ancestral practices difficult, both among migrant and native populations. Most starkly affected are these groups’ traditional food production techniques. Thus, with the help of many collaborators and support from the Laura Jane Musser Fund, HACBED has created the East Hawai`i `Ulu Planting and Intercultural Sharing Program. Intended to increase both transportation and common access to community and Parish land, the project is providing open, inclusive, and culturally-grounded gatherings and shared areas for the expression of cultural knowledge.

East Hawai`i’s varied cultural traditions are largely land-based: a point of unity for this diverse region, and an opportunity for process-forming and deliberate collaboration. By encouraging distribution, planting, cultivation, and sharing of `ulu (breadfruit), a traditional Pacific Island staple, cultural exchange will occur. Community gatherings will cultivate relationships and understanding as families address hunger and food insecurity together, simultaneously raising funds for a van for the Pāhoa migrant Micronesian population. Learning activities have featured a wide array of native food and agricultural practices, including Native Hawaiian, Micronesian, Asian, other Pacific Islander, and others.

Activities associated with this project aim to create a deliberate, culturally-mindful process of exchange. Grounded in HACBED’s expertise in facilitation and community organization, the project uses `ulu as an entry point to further dialogue that strengthens bonds across cultures and deepens the Pāhoa community’s resilience. Widespread community participation in this process has engendered cooperation and pride in grassroots efforts tied to `ulu and traditional methods of food production.

Project Activities:

  • Food Production and `Ulu Planting – in late 2015 and early 2016, approximately 15 `ulu trees were planted in the Pāhoa area. The local Micronesian population has committed to ongoing maintenance of the trees.
  • Islander Festivals – with the first in a series of Islander Festivals held on April 9, 2016, these events are celebrations of island cultures and opportunities for intercultural exchange around music, dance, and food.
  • `Āina Planning Retreat – expected to occur during summer 2016, this retreat will be available to youth who are interested in collaboratively planning the second Islander Festival. The retreat will be held on the `āina, providing opportunities for cultural sharing and reflection around land-based practices.
  • Community Mapping and Disaster Preparedness Meetings – mapping events to update existing community maps, identify community resources, and address the needs of the most vulnerable individuals and families in the area.


Our Partners


Hilo Chuukese Community Association (HCCA)

Legion of Mary

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Pāhoa