Access to Fresh Local Food

Access to fresh local food is part of food sovereignty.

What is Food Sovereignty?

Gardening PhotoFood sovereignty is about having the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods. Food Sovereignty is also about looking after the next generation and making sure what we do now will not risk our children and grandchildren’s ability to have good, healthy, safe food in the future. It is also about our tamariki and mokopuna being able to enjoy gathering food from traditional food sources as our ancestors once did and we do now.

From Past to Present – Māori Chiefs of Food Industry

He mahikai te taonga
Survival is the treasured goal.

The saying above is attributed to Kahungunu, ancestor of the Ngati Kahungunu tribe and well known for his skill in finding food. Being able to find food has always been important to Iwi Maori.

In pre-European times, food was gathered from the bush, the sea and the rivers. The origin of food was acknowledged as coming from atua. The sons of Ranginui and Papatuanuku were guardians of specific food sources and acknowledged in customs such as karakia, giving the first of one’s catch back to Tangaroa, or the first bird back to Tane, Rongo ma Tane and Haumietiketike. Many different customs governed the gathering, planting, harvesting, cooking, preservation and storage of foods. Food was traded between hapu and formed the basis of the early Maori economy Kumara, taro, uwhi (yams) and hue (gourds) were cultivated, as was para-tawhiti, king fern, a slow growing fern relished for its fleshy scales. The aruhe, fern root, was also cultivated in many regions as it was a reliable staple food. It was especially important in the South Island where kumara was difficult to grow. The karaka and ti kouka (cabbage tree) were also planted near settlements as food sources. The ti kouka provided a leafy heart and roots which were steamed.

Once Were Gardeners

Many comments were made by early settlers about the meticulously tended gardens of Anaura Bay and other Maori settlements.

'We had an opportunity to examine their cultivations more at leisure to day and found them very far to surpass any idea we had formed of them. The ground is completely cleared of all weeds, the mold broke with as much care as that of our best gardens. The sweet potatoes are set in distinct little molehills.The arum (Taro) is planted in little circular concaves.'

In the years following European settlement, land loss through legislation and war meant the loss of traditional food gathering places. Land being cleared for farming and increased pollution due to industry also affected traditional food-gathering sites.

For many Maori today, especially older Maori, not being able to get traditional foods affects their health. Certain traditional foods are culturally significant to particular areas and the serving of traditional foods at marae events reinforces the expression of Maori values such as manaakitanga. 

Asserting our rights to land and food

The International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty and The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty states that;

‘Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.’

Food Sovereignty also refers to the complex food production and processing systems (think of everything that happens to food before it turns up on your plate!) and the for the health and well-being of people to be at the centre of this system.

'Food Sovereignty puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations...'

Gathering healthy traditional foods and caring for the places where they grow has always been important to Te Iwi Māori and is reflected in kaitiakitanga and rangatiratanga.

Food Sovereignty in Action

Practical Ideas/Tips

You can be a Food Sovereignty champion. Start today, every little bit counts.
Check this video out on how one whanau are using their knowledge of kai to make ‘Nga Rare Māori’ and passing that knowledge onto their tamariki.



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