The Surfrider O‘ahu Chapter's Ocean Friendly Gardens Sub-Committee, is partnering with the permaculture group, Permablitz Hawaii, to combine OFG principles with food growing. The combined program is called Surfblitz, and builds on OFG's and Permablitz's workday model, plus Permablitz's co-op structure. Each garden has been uniquely designed by permaculture engineers to take into account the terrain, rainfall regime, and probability of success of certain species of plants.
Our project team has completed three of six residential OFG projects planned across South Oahu. 150 volunteers and community members have directly participated in these builds. Over 2,000 square feet of land has been transformed to incorporate the concepts of CPR as well providing a meaningful food source for the homeowners and the community.
At each site, water coming off roofs is being captured or redirected back into soils with enhanced permeability due to amendments of nutrient rich compost and moisture retained through mulching and advanced permaculture techniques. More than 1,000 individual plants ranging from natives to perennial edibles have been added to the landscape. A news station filmed one of the workdays and aired the report on the news that night.
A survey indicated that those involved with the workdays indicates they have spread their knowledge to anywhere from 10 to 300 additional individuals each. In the terminology of today’s social media trends, this indicates that our program is having “viral” effects. Approximately 25% of volunteers are newcomers and while the majority of participants are local to the island, we have had visitors from all over the world participate by following our online posts and connecting with groups like “Travel 2 Change” who share our events.
We have also been working hard on a mapping project that displays the events of Surfrider O‘ahu and the Surfblitz program. At each garden build that corresponded with the State’s legislative session, volunteers were instructed on how to submit testimony on two state water conservation bills. This testimony helped to pass the bills. Also, local photographers and videographers share work through social media and websites. The reach of the combined followers who view this content extends to over 15,000 people from all reaches of the world.
Part of the funding for the program comes from a Hawai‘i Tourism Authority Natural Resources Grant. Grant funds were used to purchase a watershed model to help aide in education.
Our biggest challenges lie in properly compensating our permaculture experts for their invaluable expertise. Each year we grow the capacity of this program and rely heavily on large in-kind donations of hours spent planning and directing the garden builds. That being said, the energy and excitement generated by the program is undeniable and our experts creatively source materials and find fulfillment in donating extra time to expanding the capacity of our community and making a positive impact on our natural resources.
We still have three more OFG builds including one at a windward public school. We also will be using our new watershed model to conduct outreach at our public meetings and community events. The experience gained is also leading to the formulation and introduction of new State legislation focused on food waste diversion and overall waste reduction.
All pictures are taken by Rafael (Raf) Bergstrom, Chapter Manager for the Oahu Surfrider Chapter. And here's a great video about Permablitz: