Maara Kai project ‘sowing seeds of potential’

vegetablesSetting up a maara kai (community garden) is an act of reclaiming Māori culture, self-reliance, and rangatiratanga, according to Māori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples.

The Minister was speaking at the launch of a New Zealand programme to promote community gardens on marae and Māori community projects. 250 eligible maara kai can get grants of up to $2,000 to buy tools and composting equipment, or to build garden beds and implement sheds. The programme is a joint venture between Te Puni Kōkiri and Te Waka Kai Ora, the Māori organic food collective. Gardens must be non-commercial, to benefit a local Māori community.

Dr Sharples said the $500,000 Maara Kai programme achieves many outcomes at once.

“On the most immediate level it will result in measurable benefits in terms of healthy produce to eat. But there are other, less-tangible but just as significant benefits – healthy outdoor activity, and learning the skills of planting, growing, harvesting and storing fruit and vegetables.

Community and social benefits – a network of friends, people with knowledge passing it on to those who are keen to learn, crops to share amongst whānau, and the satisfaction of cooking and eating food we have grown ourselves.

All the activities involved in setting up, tending and harvesting maara kai bring us closer together and help us to remember the teachings of our tīpuna and the way they live. Our tīpuna worked together, they shared what they had, and they ensured younger generations were equipped with survival skills. This made them strong enough to survive the challenges of their world.

It is about encouraging collective responsibility for our health and wellbeing, while at the same time preserving our respect for our whenua, our land – the ultimate expression of kaitiakitanga.”

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