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The problem is that many people in the world don’t have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food. Climate change is rapidly pushing the world’s poorest people – those least responsible for it – to the limits of subsistence. Oxfam works with women and men around the world trying to address the root cause of this problem: inequality. 925 million people do not have enough food to eat —more than the populations of Canada, USA, and the EU. Asia and the Pacific Region is home to over half the world’s population and nearly two thirds of the world’s hungry people. 65 percent of the world's hungry live in only seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia. Oxfam is a world-wide development organization that mobilizes the power of people against poverty.
The Standards Program Trustmark is a mark of Imagine Canada used under licence by Oxfam Canada. Chris Kobayashi (right), her husband Dimi Rivera (extreme left), and a friend harvest taro on their 10-acre farm on Kauai. Kobayashi, whose family has been growing taro commercially for generations, is a member of Hawaii SEED, a coalition of grassroots citizen groups and food activists that promotes ecological food and farming in Hawaii.
The thriving local food economy on Kauai’s North Shore — with its diverse community of homesteaders, small-scale farmers like Kobayashi and Rivera, and upscale homeowners and tourists who often buy out the farmers markets in a matter of hours — offers a window into what’s possible in Hawaii. A widespread switch in farming systems, however, would first require a larger shift in perception of what most Hawaiian residents (and in fact, most Americans) consider the kind of farming that feeds and employs the multitudes.
Large-scale, plantation-style agriculture was a centerpiece of Hawaii’s economy for more than a century, until competition from overseas drove local sugarcane and pineapple plantations out of business in the 1990s, leaving many jobless. What Hawaiians forget, Miles says, is that the islands have another, much older agricultural and land-use history — one that is deeply intertwined with the region’s environment and indigenous culture, one that had sustained the people of this remote island chain for several centuries before the arrival of the first European explorers. It was the responsibility of the community living within the ahupua‘a to manage the land and water resources in a balanced way.
There are few ahupua‘a left intact in Hawaii today (Kobayashi’s farm is part of a fractured one), and none of them can support an entire community as in pre-industrial days. While it’s unlikely that the islands can completely revert to the ahupua’a system, it does offer a model of self-sufficiency that can be emulated, says environmental lawyer and author Claire Hope Cummings.
Like Cummings, many farming experts and food activists say Hawaii has to look beyond its colonial history to find the way forward to a food-secure state.
A large body of scientific research — including studies by nonpartisan organizations such as the National Academies of Sciences, the U.N.
Unfortunately, research and development related to diversified farming systems receives minimal funding.
The state of Hawaii came pretty close to making that shift on its own just two decades ago.
Most of these companies produce commodity crops, mainly genetically engineered seeds, which get shipped to the U.S. Then there’s the issue of finding enough people willing to take up farming in the first place — a core problem facing the agricultural sector worldwide. Farming advocates counter that the onus is on the state to invest time and money in teaching Hawaiians how to farm. Back at Waioli Farm, Kobayashi says that it is pretty clear Hawaii needs to start the transition with some rulemaking. Come to our hot summer lecture series, on a few of our favorite things: transportation, plastic, and keeping cool. Listen to MAS’ Tamara Coombs and forum panelist and greenhouse director at Gotham Greens Jennifer Nelkin, discussed the prospects of developing commercial-scale agriculture in New York City and how to grow fresh produce at the South Pole.

New Yorkers flock to one of the city’s Greenmarkets or upscale grocery stores when they want to buy ripe heirloom tomatoes or crisp heads of lettuce. Urban farming may seem improbable in a metropolis where real estate is at a premium and green space is virtually nonexistent outside Central Park.
Now she and her partners at Gotham Greens plan to build a 10,000-square-foot greenhouse atop a church in Jamaica, Queens, before the end of the year, and to harvest the first crops they will sell in early spring. In 2008, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, a nonprofit industry association, surveyed its members — companies that build green roofs — and reported that the number of projects had grown by more than 35 percent from the year before.
Whether it is vertical farms, rooftop green houses or community gardens, any project in New York faces heaps of paperwork for zoning issues or permits, said Lisa Kersavage, the Municipal Art Society of New York’s director of advocacy and policy. Still, New Yorkers have pushed ahead with urban farms, said Colin Cathcart, an architect with Kiss & Cathcart in Brooklyn.
But close to a billion people go to sleep hungry every night.  Want to help us start a conversation about this? Women, children, indigenous people, and other minorities are living with the crushing reality of hunger. I met with her when I went to Hawaii to report on the growing citizens’ movement against the genetically modified seed industry in the islands. In Hawaii specifically, the problem is that because of the islands’ colonial history, its people have been alienated from their traditional livelihoods and sustainable agricultural practices, says Albie Miles, director of the University of Hawaii–West Oahu’s Sustainable Agriculture program. 300 from Polynesia, developed a unique system of resource management to support their growing population.
The community’s kahuna, or priests, helped oversee this by imposing taboos on things like fishing certain species during specific seasons, or gathering certain plants at the wrong time.
But some interesting efforts to restore versions of this ancient land-use system are being undertaken by organizations like the Waipa Foundation and the Limahuli Garden and Preserve, which lies just a little further north of Kobayashi’s farm on Kauai’s North Shore. The kind of agricultural model they are looking back to, and would like to see take root in Hawaii, is gaining increasing international support.
Committee on Trade and Development, and the lesser-known but hugely important International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) — indicates that the best way to ensure food production as the world’s population grows (and its climate changes) is by transitioning from the industrial, monocrop model to smaller, biologically diversified, agroecological systems that have proven to be better at addressing the challenges of food sovereignty, preserving biodiversity, and reducing poverty. When the plantation economy crashed in the ’90s, the state agriculture department considered replacing the plantations with a more community-friendly model that included small farms growing diverse crops. But that never happened,” says Walter Ritte, a veteran Hawaiian political and environmental activist based in Molakai. But, he says, there’s clearly a way out of this precarious position that could also create jobs and sustain the local economy.
Scott Enright, the chair of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture, told me there simply weren’t enough people in Hawaii who were interested in taking up farming, or who had the basic knowhow in the first place.
Corporations and Democracy,” a collaborative media effort investigating corporate control of our democracy and our dinner plates.
But for proponents of urban farming, local food from upstate or even just miles into New Jersey is too far.
But as Americans grow increasingly interested in where their food comes from and how it is grown in this Michael Pollan-inflected era, small plots of farms dotting New York’s rooftops could be the new wave of agriculture, according to urban planning experts and farmers.
Cities like Detroit and Chicago have done everything from giving tax breaks to city farmers to converting empty lots into acres of farmland.
That is a total of about 6 million to 10 million square feet of green roofs, according to the association.
Despommier, a professor of public health at Columbia University, believes vertical farms are an answer. His firm is working on a putting a greenhouse on top of the Manhattan School for Children on the Upper West Side. Please print off this poster, and post it where people will see it!Want to help us start a conversation about this?

For many Hawaiians, who worked or grew up with this kind of agricultural system, it’s impossible to even conceive that islanders can sustain themselves without Big Ag. Recognizing the connection between the mountains and the oceans and the key role of freshwater in linking the two, they divided the islands into self-sustaining units called ahupua‘a.
Food, goods, and services were distributed within an ahupua‘a via a system of sharing and mutual cooperation.
Hawaii’s grassroots movement against the biotech farms and industrial agriculture finds much strength in this ancient agrarian history. Miles of Hawaii University argues that this neglect has led to a “knowledge gap” that makes it easy for Big Ag supporters to cite a “yield gap” between agro-ecologial and industrial food production. A recent Hawaii State University study estimates that replacing just 10 percent of imported food with locally grown food would create about 2,300 jobs (about the same number that the seed industry provides) and keep $313 million circulating within Hawaii’s economy. Much of the state’s 280,000 acres of arable agricultural land belongs to big trusts set up by erstwhile plantation barons and Hawaiian royal families who prefer the security of leasing out or selling large parcels rather than divvying their land up in sections of 10 acres of less.
Our panelists delve into the economic development and urban design implications of the fundamental question: Can New York, a city whose population is growing while its acreage is shrinking, eventually grow enough food within its boundaries to become self-sufficient? The 5,000-square-feet hydroponic greenhouse was powered by wind turbines, solar panels and used vegetable oil to grow peppers, squash, herbs, strawberries and more for restaurants and organizations like City Harvest. He imagines that growing crops in towering buildings could popularize urban farming: it is local, produces crops year-round and can rely on renewable energy to operate.
Could this remote island chain, which currently imports nearly 90 percent of its food, transition to growing enough food to feed itself though small-scale, agroecological farming? The ahupua‘a were usually wedge-shaped sections of land that ran from the mountains to the sea (extending into coastal fishing grounds) and contained a freshwater source such as a stream, spring, or river.
This kind of resource management helped develop a strong sense of community and interdependence between the people and the natural environment. Miles says the state government needs to make “some serious choices” about its agriculture sector and needs to start removing the “structural obstacles” in the way of small, diversified farms. They can’t really be blamed for that either, given the massive property tax burden that they have to bear.
So after a few years they gave up,” says Hector Valenzuela, a crop scientist at Hawaii University.
Each ahupua‘a contained within it all the resources needed for a community to sustain itself independently. When Captain James Cook, the first European explorer to land in Hawaii, sailed into Kauai in 1778, the islands were supporting a population of about 300,000.
Department of Agriculture shifted its focus toward research and education in agroecology and biologically diversified farming systems, the potential to address global resource challenges would be enormous. Crop scientists shut themselves up in labs when they should have been in the fields, showing farmers how to grow food,” he says. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so. None of this was planned.” Today, Kobayashi’s family’s 10-acre Waioli Farm, named after the stream that runs beside it, grows produce using organic practices — mainly taro, which they supply to families and traditional poi (taro paste) makers on Oahu and the Big Island, but also some fruits and vegetables for their local farmers market stand.

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