Māori Women Promoting Food Sovereignty in Aotearoa (New Zealand)
Poverty and food insecurity are issues being felt in Māori communities. Food insecurity includes the malnutrition of essential nutrients due to the inadequate intake of fruits and vegetables, exacerbated by the widespread availability of cheap, processed foods. Food insecurity has drastic implications for women, their families and society at large. Few studies have investigated this problem and even fewer have addressed the problem from a Māori women’s perspective in order to identify culturally relevant and community-based solutions to food poverty, such as marae and community gardens. To achieve a fully democratic conversation about food, that is a conversation that includes a diversity of viewpoints and perspectives, we need the full participation of women and Māori women in particular. Women are involved with the food system in different ways, as producers, consumers, and providers – they play an important role in providing food security for their children. Among Māori, only 34.8% were food secure, 48.7% were moderately secure and 16.5% were food insecure (Parnell, Wilson, Thomson, Mackay, & Stefanogiannis, 2011). This is compared to New Zealand European households which were much better off (Parnell et al., 2011). Food insecurity is positively associated with obesity. From the 2008/09 Adult Nutritional Survey, 47% of Māori adults were obese and 15% of Māori children were obese, while over half, 61%, of Māori women were obese (Parnell et al, 2011). Through four empirical case studies from different regions of New Zealand, the study explores Māori women’s role in promoting local food sovereignty – that is, how Indigenous women are actively defining and taking control of their own food system. In order to address social inequalities and health disparities, women’s empowerment must be an essential component of research projects. The participatory nature of this research entails a more active role of the women involved, including a horizontal learning exchange amongst the women. This PhD project brings more attention to grass-roots projects, such as community and marae gardens that guide the way to a more sustainable future and represent a holistic solution to the environmental, agricultural, food and nutrition issues many communities are currently facing. Māori women’s perceptions of food issues impacting Indigenous communities, obstacles and solutions faced by the gardens, and how they perceive their actions as food sovereignty, highlight solutions based on Māori cultural values. Findings show how Māori women are promoting agroecology and sustainability through reviving traditions and the ways of their ancestors, educating tamariki (youth), whānau (families) and communities while promoting health and wellness through the act of gardening itself. This underlines the importance of valuing intergenerational knowledge and the contribution of elders through acknowledging the wisdom of the past. Returning to traditional agroecological ways of farming, such as intercropping, improving the quality of the soil through crop rotation, composting, using manure, improving water retention, and getting rid of the use of fossil fuels and toxic agro-chemicals, improves the health of our soil, bodies and communities. The Māori women involved in the study are not just promoting food sovereignty, but also a way of farming and agriculture in harmony with Papatūānuku (Mother Earth) based on cultural values that run counter to mainstream capitalist values of competition, consumerism and industrialisation, which are negatively impacting our environment and are the primary cause of climate change. This research builds awareness around Indigenous food sovereignty initiatives and acts as a tool for advocacy and policy change. The results contribute to defining how Indigenous values around food growing can inform alternative, post-capitalist models of food production outside of the market-dominated system. Food is being revalued as more than just a commodity, highlighting the important cultural dimensions of food.
Advisor: Mirosa, Miranda; Carter, Lynette
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Māori; wahine; Food; Sovereignty; Community; Gardens; Marae; FoodSecurity; TinoRangatiratanga; Kai
Research Type: Thesis