David Fuertes says, "My passion is working with kids." David is
executive director for nonprofit Kahua Pa‘a Mua, Inc.
understands two things that bring a community together: meaningful work and
food. The nonprofit Kahua Pa‘a Mua, Inc. (KPM), of which he is executive
director, works to strengthen his North Kohala community through these,
offering educational and cultural programs for youth and adults based on
growing food and caring for the land.
After earning his
undergraduate degree in tropical agriculture from CTAHR, Mr. Fuertes got his
teaching certificate and went on to become an ag instructor at Kohala High
School. Now retired after 32 years at the DOE, he partners with his son, a UH
Hilo graduate, as a part-time cattle rancher and as a mentor for KPM.
“My passion is
working with kids,” he confirms. KPM offers mentorship programs in animal
husbandry, crop farming, and agriculture construction. Mr. Fuertes incorporates
Korean Natural Farming methodologies into his teaching and ag production,
using locally available and homemade inputs cultured with naturally occurring microorganisms to improve the health and well-being of plants and animals.
The centerpiece of Kahua
Pa‘a Mua is raising pigs in student-built Deep Litter System pigpens.
The centerpiece of
the program is raising pigs. Students build their own Inoculated Deep Litter
System pigpens, which use KNF techniques to negate the usual problems of flies
and smells. There’s no wastewater runoff from the pens, since microorganisms
and a composting litter on the floor control sanitation naturally. Participants
learn market techniques by buying weaned piglets from Mr. Fuertes, raising
them, and then selling the grown pigs to outside markets. KPM offers training
on employment opportunities and starting a business, but more importantly, the
youth gain confidence and a stronger sense of culture and their place in their
key for Mr. Fuertes, who says using locally produced inputs helps keep costs
down and creates healthier foods. Animal feed and compost fodder come from
kitchen scraps, sweetpotato culls, leftover macadamias, and locally grown
moringa. Backyard trees are chipped for bedding for the swine. His family is
working to establish a meat-processing and retail sales outlet in North Kohala,
part of their plan to create a full-circle production chain in which crops and
animals are raised and processed in Kohala and then sold directly to the local
community. In line with Governor Ige’s commitment to double the amount of
locally grown food by 2030, this goal far surpasses it in scope—they hope to
see 50% of all food eaten in the district produced there. And if expertise,
energy, vision, hard work, and community commitment can do it, they’ll make it.