Joe and Kristen Souza, as co-owners of Kanile`a `Ukulele and proud parents of three growing sons, wanted to create a family business that could thrive, generation to generation. To do this, they needed to ensure that the prized Koa wood that was the primary focus of their instruments would be around for many years. In July of 2014 they acquired a parcel of land on Hawai`i Island, a small tract of rainforest primarily of koa and `ōhia lehua trees. They dubbed it Nani `Ekolu to represent their three sons (Kaimana, `Iokepa and Kahiau), the three surrounding mountains (Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Hualālai) and the Three Greatest Things (Faith, Hope and Love).

But after spending time at Nani `Ekolu and seeing the impact of the native Hawaiian rainforest on our state’s ecology, they came to realize that it was more than just leaving an `ukulele-building business for their progeny; it was about leaving a better, healthier planet for them as well.

The Souzas learned how to safely clear invasive species from their land. They identified 38 different species of native Hawaiian plants and trees struggling to survive amongst the invasive species. They studied the newest innovations in high-yield propagation of the endemic flora and have shared their seed bank with others for the purpose of planting trees on Hawai`i Island.

From a small seed has grown a heartfelt passion for saving Hawaii’s forests, a passion that is flourishing with the planting of thousands of koa trees with thousands more planned for the near future.

To find out how you can be help in saving Hawaii’s forests, go to