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Community whanaungatanga cultivating kai sovereignty.

Mā tou rourou, mā taku rourou, ka ora ai te iwi

With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive

Everyone should have access to affordable, nourishing healthy kai regardless of where they live, their background, culture, income, or education. All across Aotearoa there is an increasing number of people who are experiencing severe kai insecurity. Despite Aotearoa producing enough kai to feed 40 million people, almost four in ten homes experience kai insecurity, with nearly one in five children living in homes that aren’t kai secure.

We envision local sovereign kai systems that are regenerative, and protect our natural resources. We also believe making it easy for our tamariki and whānau to access healthy kai is vital for creating a healthier and happier Aotearoa.

We at Healthy Families Whanganui, Rangitīkei, Ruapehu have prioritised working in the kai system as kai plays an important role in our health and wellbeing. Dave Hursthouse is our Lead Systems Innovator for our Kai space, and also works with the Learning Environment at Pīwakawaka farm, a local grower and kai educator, has been working within, and supporting a number of local kai initiatives.

Dave has been working to maintain the momentum of community connection with two neighbouring suburbs in Whanganui, Aramoho and Papaiti. This community is cultivating kai sovereignty in a hyper-localised context that could have a significant ripple effect as it inspires similar localised initiatives around the Whanganui rohe.

Part of weaving the community closer around kai involves a monthly community meal at Te Ao Hou Marae, kicked off in collaboration between Te Ao Hou and our Lead Systems Innovator, Dave Hursthouse. These meals have had a vibrant energy of their own, and every month there are at least 40 people attending (sometimes as many as 80) and the kai table is loaded with different foods made by different members of the community. There’s always fresh kai for the community to take home (from the Learning Environment and other local growers) and if there is kai left over at the end of the meal, it always moves on to the Whanganui Kai Hub so it can be distributed to those who need it.

These meals are all about whanaungatanga, and the relationships that are forming at each meal are strengthening the fabric of the community, and creating a lasting network that is increasingly excited to work together to affect change for the betterment of the community.

Through this initiative we have heard from the communities in Aramoho and Papaiti that people are keen to grow kai with their community, and were keen to start with kūmara.

The para kūmara situated at Pīwakawaka has been a learning environment, Te Kākano rangatahi helped to prepare the soil for the kūmara to be planted, the kūmara had been in the soil for 4 months.

Last week the community were invited to harvest kūmara as the first stage of kūmara-oriented wānanga, the community were taught how to plant, when to plant and how to dig up kūmara, the kūmara that were harvested will be saved and laid in tāpapa beds come late winter to grow next seasons tipu (shoots). These tipu will be for the community, so any whānau, whare, marae, kura or organisation can have the opportunity to grow kūmara next summer.

Future wānanga will include:

  • Learning how to prepare Mara kai for kūmara

  • Keeping kūmara thriving throughout the seasons

  • Harvest and storage of kūmara

  • Aligning our kūmara growing with the maramataka, and deepening our awareness of the signs of te taiao

  • Sharing our stories of kūmara, old and new

This is all part of enhancing Aramoho-Papaiti Kai Sovereignty Movement momentum around growing kai. We are consistently bringing together community leadership in a smaller focused Kai Collective, with a focus on influencing regional kai policy and growing local kai systems to enhance community resilience as a climate/emergency response. As well as supporting local kai initiatives in their establishment, including: the Whanganui Kai Hub; Born & Raised Pasifika Community Orchard; Rātana Pā community kai & māra kai initiatives.

A thriving kai system nourishes the physical, spiritual, and social expressions of the people it feeds, upholding the mana and wellbeing of our communities. Returning to food systems that uphold kai sovereignty allows communities to affirm their relationship with the whenua, wai, and ancestors every day.

Communities hold the answers to re-orienting the food system to improve wellbeing. Around Aotearoa, we are hearing communities insisting now is the time to move toward sustainable food systems, which are regenerative and resilient; prioritise locally grown and affordable kai; and uphold mātauranga, kaitiakitanga and rangatiratanga.

If we use what we collectively know, work together and take action locally, regionally and nationally, we have the best opportunity to make good food the reality for all of our people.


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