The volunteers of the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) play an important role in ensuring the success of the Clean Water for Reefs Initiative in West Maui. Their hard work and dedication helps CORAL achieve our mission of uniting communities to save coral reefs. Among this stellar network of volunteers, Charley Dofa stands out as an exceptional volunteer and a local hero.
Raised on the grounds of the old Olowalu Sugar Company in West Maui, Charley’s responsibility to mālama ‘aina (take care of the land) began at a young age while helping his grandpa in the family garden. Charley’s natural ability to work the land transitioned into a career in landscaping and later, a heavy machinery operation. Maui has a rich agricultural history with pineapple and sugar plantations, but in the early 21st century plantations started to shut down and many workers lost their jobs. Charley witnessed firsthand how difficult it was for people to afford fresh produce and maintain a consistent connection to the land. “That’s when I became motivated to start a community farm. To help people grow their own food. To make peoples’ dreams come true.”
In 2011, with the help of Tova Callender of the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative, Charley started the organic Napili Community Garden, of which he is currently the Vice President. “It’s hard for families now because you have to work multiple jobs just to get by, so the garden is a good place to grow what they would need to spend money on. It’s a no-brainer. People start to see how empowering it is to grow your own food. It tastes better because it’s grown from your own heart.”
Charley’s knowledge about gardening and farming is a major asset to CORAL’s work. In West Maui, fallow agricultural lands and the design of dirt roads within these plantations creates easy pathways for sediment to travel to the ocean. In West Maui, CORAL’s Clean Water for Reefs Initiative prevents sediment and nutrient pollution from reaching the ocean and degrading reefs. CORAL staff and volunteers like Charley plant native vegetation near decommissioned roads adjacent to streams in fallow agricultural lands, a practice called replanting. Replanting helps to restore ecosystem services, slow and infiltrate the flow of storm water, and plant roots stabilize soil to reduce erosion and sediment from reaching and smothering our coral reefs.
Throughout the years, Charley has observed that people and community partnerships are essential for conservation success, which exemplifies CORAL’s mission of uniting communities to save coral reefs. “The biggest impact is when people have the opportunity to get involved in the process. Through working, one learns.” CORAL is uniting the community of West Maui with the help of volunteers like Charley, and recently established Native Planting Days for volunteers to participate in our stream restoration techniques.
We want to Mahalo Charley Dofa for all the work he does to support conservation projects in West Maui.
If you’d like to volunteer with CORAL, please fill out our Volunteer Interest Form at www.coral.org/maui. If you’d like more information about the Napili Community Garden, visit their website and Facebook page.