The MALAMA aquaponics program is a decade-long effort to improve the health of Waimanalo, Oʻahu, community members through a culturally grounded, multi-generational, family-based, backyard aquaponics program. MALAMA, which stands for “Mini Ahupuaʻa for Lifestyle and Mea'ai through Aquaponics” is also the focus of the latest Voice of the Sea video series. CTAHR education specialist and community coordinator Ilima Ho-Lastimosa was featured, along with UH faculty Jane Chung-Do (Public Health), Clyde Tamaru (CTAHR, retired) and Ted Radovich (CTAHR).
MALAMA involves a multidisciplinary community-academic partnership with researchers and community leaders from CTAHR, Office of Public Health Studies, and Ke Kula Nui O Waimānalo. MALAMA was first initiated in Waimānalo by Ilima in 2009 and teaches families to grow their own food using backyard aquaponics technology through Hawaiian cultural practices and values.
The 6-month program includes a series of hands-on, family-oriented workshops to guide families to build and maintain a backyard aquaponics home system and make healthy meals and lāʻau (Hawaiian healing remedies using herbs) using the plants and fish grown in aquaponics systems.
Aquaponics has been found to resonate with Native Hawaiian communities because it utilizes a symbiotic relationship between fish and plants by effectively combining hydroponics (raising plants in water) and aquaculture (raising fish in tanks) to create a contained, sustainable food-production system that mimics the traditional Native Hawaiian ahupua‘a system of land stewardship and food sustainability.
The hands-on workshops have been held at the Waimānalo Learning Center inside the Waimānalo Research Station, where there is a community aquaponics demonstration system. As one participant in the video describes her system, “I get the food that comes out of it and it feeds my soul as well.“