Search Results

Old-Young – Wet-Dry – East-West

Most Polynesian archipelagoes have a volcanic ‘hot spot’ origin and, due to tectonic plate movement, islands increase in age as one progresses further from the hot spot of volcanic activity. The Hawaiian Islands illustrate this geological age progression, and associated opportunities for crop production.

The geographically older westerly islands (Kauai, O‘ahu, Molokai and west Maui) are more heavily weathered, with permanent stream flow and alluvium valleys, on which irrigation could be developed. The agricultural emphasis was on taro irrigation, with shifting cultivation and other forms of dryland gardening providing a secondary role. In the geologically younger islands to the east (east Maui and Hawai‘i), irrigation was only a minor contributor to subsistence production and highly labor-intensive, short-fallow dryland field systems predominated.

Read More »


Archeologists divide Pre-European Hawaiian agriculture into wetland, flood irrigated systems that were restricted to stream valleys and coastal plains of each island and dryland, rainfed systems that covered vast areas of relatively fertile soils on the younger islands. The Kona Field System was not brought to Kona as a fully developed system; but rather, it reflects a developmental adaptation to the area likely associated with the evolving sociopolitical structure and increasing population in Kona

Planting areas were divided by kuaiwi (one translation of the word kuaiwi is ‘backbone;’) these are low stone mounds/walls (wider than tall,) formed as a series of closely-spaced structures that are parallel to the mauka-makai slope which may have also served as trails between cultivated areas. Between the kuaiwi, other traditional Hawaiian planting features are present such as mounds, terraces, modified outcrops and platforms. They formed a highly diverse patchwork characterized by a matrix of agricultural practices overlaid onto a spectrum of lava flows of varying ages.

Read More »


Kamehameha, who had resided on Oʻahu since 1804, moved to Kamakahonu in 1812 at what is now known as Kailua on Hawaiʻi Island. Kuahewa (huge, vast) was Kamehameha’s farm situated above Kailua, (probably between the ahupuaʻa of Lanihau and Keopu.)

Kamehameha himself worked as a farmer at Kuahewa and he enacted the law that anyone who took one taro or one stalk of sugarcane must plant one cutting of the same in its place. Kuahewa was “a huge farm” located in the fern belt above Kailua Bay.

Read More »


Many cultures in Hawaiʻi have their own names for sweet potato.  Kamote is the Tagalog name, and in Aotearoa (New Zealand) they are widely farmed

Read More »

Kohala Field System

Throughout the younger islands of the Hawaiian archipelago, dryland agricultural field systems constituted a significant component of the late prehistoric subsistence economy. The field systems

Read More »