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Ka Pao Editorial

Ka Pao Editorial

Business, Politics and Culture - the Ka Pao viewpoint, maybe yours too...

Indigenous Agroecology

Posted by on in Ka Pao

farmer.jpg

University of Otago researcher Dr Marion Johnson has been granted $600,000 by Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga (one of New Zealand’s seven Centres of Research Excellence) to create a low-input farming model combining Māori knowledge and science. Indigenous Agroecology (He Ahuwhenua Taketake), will draw upon Mātauranga (the Māori knowledge system) to create a unique farming model which values diversity, aligns it with science, and preserves traditional knowledge.

“We will be investigating how science can combine with traditional knowledge to achieve the goals of clean water, healthy land, healthy produce and a sustainable resilient farming system,” Dr Johnson says. “We’ll record traditional knowledge of land and water management with respect to animal health and mahinga kai (food production), and identify indigenous perspectives on biodiversity, and the recollection of land use. We’ll then align scientific methodology with that traditional knowledge to develop and demonstrate a viable farm system.”

The project builds on an earlier NPM project: Adapting principles from Te Rongoa into ecologically and culturally sustainable farm practice.

Dr Johnson comes from a farming background, has degrees in Agricultural Science and Environmental Biology, and a master’s in Veterinary Parasitology. She has recently completed a research project into using aspects of Te Rongoā (Māori traditional medicine) for farm use.

Indigenous Agroecology (He Ahuwhenua Taketake) is an opportunity for mātauranga Māori to inform and generate innovation in farm systems which are insensitive to environmental and social concerns. Indigenous Agroecology aims to identify and develop a unique ethic of farm stewardship, with a focus on guardianship of the land and the waters that flow through it, based on the traditional and contemporary experience of Māori agricultural practitioners.

The long-term aim is to invoke kaitiakitanga and manage the land to produce farm products that are linked to place, grown as naturally as possible with a low chemical signature, and therefore aligned with a growing global demand. One of the major barriers to livestock productivity in low input but economically viable systems is the maintenance of animal health. Rongoā offers exciting potential for low-cost maintenance of stock health and for promotion of biodiversity. Biodiversity losses under industrial agriculture reduce the ability for tangata whenua to express their cultural practices.

Although there is a growing understanding of habitats and their components, enhancement of indigenous biodiversity on productive lands is more likely to succeed if it is done in partnership with agriculture and is understood to bestow benefits. Agricultural practice is dependent upon water. Indigenous Agroecology brings a ‘ki uta ki tai’ approach, highlighting the inter-relationship between water and land at a catchment level, and looks for better ways to manage the land to protect the water and its ‘stock’ of kai.

Knowledge Sharing - This research was inspired by members of a community expressing their wish that knowledge gained by their tipuna could be found or rediscovered. Other people expressed the desire to farm their land differently, others to echo their ancestry in their daily lives in an economically feasible manner. Indigenous Agroecology seeks to begin to answer the questions and reflect those answers back to the communities through a variety of means:

  • Kapu tī methodology is informal and encourages a two-way flow of information.

  • Hui and workshops will be held with communities.

  • The concept will be introduced to the wider public through the media and popular journals and to academics and practitioners via presentations and peer reviewed publications.

This is the beginning of the development of a concept that delivers to many members of society and to which all can contribute.

References:

http://csafe.org.nz/indigenous_agroecology

http://www.maramatanga.co.nz