Inspired by a shared objective to advance food self-reliance throughout Hawai‘i, Bennet Group client Kamehameha Schools is partnering with The Kohala Center (an independent, community-based research, conservation, and education think-tank) in a multi-pronged campaign called Mahi‘ai a Ola. The initiative is designed to support local farmers, promote agricultural education, and inspire innovative solutions with the potential to improve food security across the islands.

The Mahi‘ai a Ola program aims to encompass the deeper meaning of mahi‘ai, which literally translates to “farmer,” or the idea of cultivating an ‘āina-based lifestyle, a way of thinking, and the connection and relationship that we as a community have with ‘āina.

The first focus of the 3-pronged Mahi‘ai a Ola initiative is known as the Mahi‘ai Match-Up — an agricultural business plan competition, awarding a 5-year land agreement and a valuable package of support benefits to incubate the success of the new businesses.

Dedicated to increasing food production for the local market, the contest is open to farmers and other agricultural producers, including ranching, fishery, and nursery proprietors, as well as educational collaborators interested in growing food for Hawaiʻi.

The winning projects receive a prize pool valued at over $25,000, which consists of $5,000 in business development services from The Kohala Center, waived rent valued at up to $10,000, and $10,000 in startup funding donated by the Ulupono Initiative to help grow their business.

The second leg, Mahiʻai, is a scholarship program focused on promoting agriculture-related education. With farmers indicating that finding and attracting skilled labor is one of the largest hurdles their industry faces, the Mahiʻai a Ao initiative aims to increase the pipeline of students interested in ag-related professions and careers.

A Mahiʻai scholarship program is being run in collaboration with the Pauahi Foundation who manages a Common Application for post high school scholarships, while a second partnership is also underway with GoFarm Hawaiʻi, a University of Hawaiʻi College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources program. The GoFarm Hawaiʻi educational arm offers intensive production training, technical business support, exposure to marketing and agricultural revenue opportunities, and a valuable network of peers and resources to advance agricultural careers.

The final tier MahiX, will be an open challenge designed to identify cooperative, innovative solutions to the most pressing issues facing the ag sector today. Modeled after the XPRIZE, a non-profit organization that designs and manages competitions intended to encourage technological developments that could benefit humanity, MahiX, seeks to inspire new methods, ideas, partnerships, or products that have the potential to effect positive change in the food system.

If you have innovative agriculture related ideas and/or would like to partner with Kamehameha Schools on MahiX, please visit https://www.ksbe.edu/mahiai/