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Insight on Indigenous Ag

Sustainable traditional cropping systems are an answer to food sustainability, says professor

Insight on Indigenous Ag

Noa Lincoln (TPSS) recently appeared on a panel on the PBS show Insights discussing the role of indigenous agriculture in our contemporary food and agricultural systems. He defined indigenous agriculture as a constellation of place-adaptive systems that develops in concert with the ecology of the land and the needs of the people, leading to long-lasting and enduring forms of agriculture. Noa is eminently qualified to discuss such systems, since they’re at the heart of his research, teaching, and publications.

Asked why more indigenous agriculture initiative aren’t taking place at present, when research has proven they are viable and dynamic systems and there is ag land available, he notes that the political climate is an important element in any such initiative. He explains it took political will to develop the large-scale indigenous cropping systems of the Native Hawaiians, such as the ‘ulu belt of Kona or the large coconut groves of Waikīkī. This political will is lacking in the present day: while more people are becoming aware of the necessity for sustainable agriculture, including indigenous forms, the fiscal commitment isn’t there yet. 

“The Department of Agriculture gets 0.4% of the budget,” Noa points out, “essentially zero.” Instead, the budget strongly favors tourism and the military, highly “extractive” industries compared with sustainable indigenous agriculture, which seeks to give back to the land. 

Let’s hope that more conversations like this one raise awareness enough that political push shifts in the direction of more indigenous ag initiatives!

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