Hoʻohiapo – Renewing Ancestral Education Pathways in Agroecology

Hiapo (n.) The eldest.
Ho‘ohiapo (v.) To create eldest siblings.

The Hoʻohiapo Network, which includes faculty members of Hawaiʻi high schools, service providers, and other community-based organizations, aims to lift up indigenous approaches to education and youth development. Ho‘ohiapo refers to the mentoring process, often elder-to-younger, but always in a peer-to-peer fashion, which was a co-learning process for both the hiapo and the younger sibling. Hoʻohiapo is a process that must be embedded into how we approach social and economic development in Hawaiʻi.

Our primary goal is to facilitate the reintegration of ancestral mentoring processes in Hawaiʻi’s educational system by engaging teachers, students, and the broader community. This will create a supportive pathway for an increased number of Native Hawaiian youth to enroll in higher education, specifically sustainable community food system (SCFS) focused bachelor’s of applied science degree program.

Project Overview

Native Hawaiians once maintained completely self-sufficient communities, but colonization disrupted integrated ancestral approaches to education, workforce development, and the food system. As a result, less than 5% of farm operators in Hawai‘i are Native Hawaiian and 90% of food is imported, a stark departure from ancestral approaches to subsistence resulting in social, environmental, and economic disparities. Further, in West O‘ahu, less than half of all high school students matriculate to college, with only 1 in 3 students from majority Native Hawaiian high schools continuing to higher education. While our population of focus, Native Hawaiian youth in West O‘ahu, faces many challenges, the educational gap is increasingly concerning as education is a recognized vehicle for improving long-term quality of life. Indeed, investments in education and postsecondary options for Native Hawaiians are expected to be “a key driver in future improvements in material and economic well-being” (Kamehameha Schools 2014).

As such, the goal of Project Ho‘ohiapo is to facilitate the reintegration of ancestral mentoring processes in Hawaiʻi’s educational system by engaging teachers, students, and the broader community. This will create a supportive pathway for an increased number of Native Hawaiian youth to enroll in higher education, specifically sustainable community food system (SCFS) focused degree programs.

  1. Creating a network of educational and community-based partners to share resources and improve the local food system;
  2. Organizing professional development events to catalyze the introduction of culturally-relevant, STEM-based agro-ecology and food systems curricula at the high school level;
  3. Generating youth life-skills and asset development through agro-preneurial internships and intersession programs.

Context

Native Hawaiian ancestral practices were designed to exist within the context of an island ecosystem, which integrated social, economic, and environmental considerations.

Isolated in the Pacific with almost 2,300 miles of water between Hawaiʻi and the next landmass, our practices were localized, highly integrated, and comprehensively managed within the context of an ahupuaʻa (self-contained valley communities with boundaries extending from mountain peaks and past the fringing reef). Families took responsibility to maintain the overall health of the ahupua‘a, and such knowledge was passed down via mentoring processes to cultivate a communal self-sufficiency built on a holistic sense of well-being.

Activities

Educator Outreach
HACBED has conducted a significant amount of engagement with high school campuses as part of Project Hoʻohiapo, including meeting one-on-one with high school campuses, hosting a brainstorming session with high school teachers that serve large populations of Native Hawaiian students at UHWO in December 2016, and offering a 3-credit food systems focused Professional Development course.

High School partners include:

  • Waiʻanae High School
  • Nānākuli High and Intermediate School
  • Kapolei High School
  • James Campbell High School
  • Waipahu High School
  • Mililani High School
  • Leilehua High School
  • Kahuku High School
  • Waialua High School

Outcomes of discussions with teachers reaffirm both interest in and need for a facilitated space to regularly share resources and discuss collaboration, bridging gaps between local organizations, communities, educators, and students.

SustAINAble Food Systems Professional Development
This course provided multidisciplinary analyses of the food systems of Hawai’i. Through a combination of lecture, discussion and field experiences participants examined the historical forces shaping food and agricultural systems in Hawai’i and the key socio-economic and ecological costs and benefits of the current agri-food system in Hawai’i. Participants explored elements of sustainable community food systems, experienced local food systems professionals, and discussed and identified future directions for student involvement with food system study and change.

To view the evaluation report, please click here.

Alignment with Community Long Range Plans

Finally, our project is well aligned with community identified needs, as the 2012 Wai‘anae Sustainable Communities Plan emphasizes: “In order to create a community that is more self sufficient, members of the community have expressed a strong interest in developing more employment opportunities within their District […] The sector with the most community support for expansion is agriculture.” As such, Project Ho‘ohiapo—Renewing Ancestral Education Pathways in Agroecology is an opportunity to address community needs.