Varietal Diversity on the Selection of Kava

Project Managers: Andrew Gerren, Orou Gauae, Noa Lincoln, and Tom A. Ranker, database manager
This study will investigate patterns of different kava varieties grown and consumed in Hawai'i and Vanuatu, to identify factors contributing to their production and consumption, and to identify major knowledge gaps. The presence of Piper methysticum within the Oceania archipelago has been well documented; however, the botanical variations of kava cultivars and their influence on selection need further investigation. The objective of this study is to develop consumer awareness of kava consumption, understand the role that local producers play in applying their knowledge to the kava growth process, and to catalog what varieties of locally grown kava would be open to the global market. Preliminary data will be compiled from photos, literature, and plant specimens found in Hawai'i and Vanuatu. Surveys, semi-structured interviews and focus groups with farmers, producers, consumers, and retailers will be conducted, as well as visits to farms, production sites, and other facilities, where participant observation and field walks will be used to assess factors influencing varietal diversity. Data will be analyzed using indices to determine varietal importance to help map out the complex nature and number of varieties. Identifying and describing the mechanisms of varietal selection will provide insight into future pathways as kava enters the global market. This study will also provide information on cultivar abundance, allowing us to see which varieties require more attention to ensure their survival. Information obtained on kava growth and consumption will be used to analyze the multidimensional concept of importance into standardized and comparable numerical scales or values.
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