Te Rina Waiwiri and her partner pulled out a hedge and created a vegetable patch in its place.
By Robin Martin
A Te Kahui o Taranaki project is not only helping to put food on the table as the cost of living rises, but putting iwi members back in touch with traditional gardening practices.
Tātai Tāngata ki te Whenua Maara Kai is a six month programme using Maramataka Māori, or the Māori Lunar Calendar, to help whānau work towards food resilience and wellbeing.
Te Rina Waiwiri is a first time gardener and a busy mother of three under fives.
She and her partner got started on their Waitara project by pulling out a hedge.
“After that I decided that we needed to put some kai down because everything was so expensive and not in the best condition in some of the supermarkets and, yeah, just teaching the kids how to grow kai in their own back yard.”
Now there were tomatoes, courgettes, silver beet, cucumbers and more growing.
“This big patch is kūmara and my Mum actually helped me plant those and get that patch ready.
“This is my Dad’s berry bush, I think it’s raspberries, yup. And my daughter has planted those sunflowers that I didn’t know were there, so that’s nice.”
Pounamu Skelton was the course content creator.
For her Maramataka Māori lay at the heart of the programme.
“We started on the right marama (moon), so Māwharu (moon on the twenty-seventh night after the full moon) is a great time to launch something in the ancient learning of maramataka and then we start in the right season.
“So, traditionally kōanga or spring is the right time and we’re waiting for the pīpīwharauroa (shining cuckoo) to sing which informs us down here on earth that hey it’s the right time to dig.”
Course content creator Pounamu Skelton was pleased with Te Rina’s kūmara. Photo / RNZ / Robin Martin
She was particularly taken with Te Rina’s kūmara patch.
“She would’ve put those in kind of maybe around November and I can see the health of the kūmara leaves like they’re really large.
“It’s starting to spread which is what you’d expect in February in the heat of summer and they’ll be ready to harvest probably… I’d go for a look at the end of March.”
More than 200 Taranaki uri or iwi members have taken part in Tātai Tāngata ki te Whenua Maara Kai programme across New Zealand and Australia.
Project manager Rawinia Leatherby-Toia said the course – which could be delivered online or in combination with face-to-face tuition – was a part of the decolonisation process.
Project coordinator Rawinia Leatherby-Toia says it is about relearning skills lost through colonisation. Photo / RNZ / Robin Martin
“It’s about relearning the knowledge of our grandparents our great-grandparents. We see kūmara here right now thriving, kamokamo, Māori potatoes, taewa.
“You know growing that kai that we grew up with and teaching our children and our mokopuna the way of growing food as well.”
A survey of course participants highlighted embedding maramataka into daily life, growing self-confidence and coming together as whānau as key benefits.
And you would get no argument from Waiwiri on that.
“Just being able to come out here and get produce when I need it and not have to go to the supermarket and it’s fresh.
“I have to race my children to the tomatoes at the moment. They play out here often and they see anything red and it’s in the mouth.
“And just the satisfaction that I’ve done something and grown something.”
On average course participants said putting in a maara kai saved them about $60 a week on groceries.
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