Dr Jessica Hutchings (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Huirapa, Gujarati), Kaupapa Māori Research Leader in the fields of environmental and Indigenous studies, Hua Parakore (Māori organic) farmer and researcher for Te Waka Kai Ora, Māori Organics Aotearoa, reflects on the importance of the Māori food sovereignty movement and the significance of Matariki in mindful food consumption and hauora.

Matariki provides an important opportunity for us all, students, teachers, whānau, communities, farmers and those of us who grow our own food, to consider sustainable food practices and how we can best act as kaitiaki of land and water in the ways that we grow and consume nourishment.

For Māori, it is also an opportunity to consider the Māori food sovereignty framework, and how we can be self-sufficient and sustainable in our food consumption as whānau, and as a community.

Traditionally, Matariki has been a time for Māori to remember our ancestors, those who have passed away, but also to focus energies on our relationship to whānau and to give thanks for harvested crops and other food sources. As such, it is also a perfect opportunity to consider food sovereignty.

Te Waka Kai Ora asks whānau and hapū across Aotearoa to consider what it would mean to create food secure futures for Māori. How we can better support the small number of Māori organic and hua parakore growers here in Aotearoa, connect back to our own traditional foods through our own food cultures during Matariki, and create sustainable food systems through supporting a Māori food economy?

In order to support a Māori food economy, we need to take a step out of the dominant chain supermarkets, and we need to be looking at buying our food first and foremost through Māori producers. We need to encourage and support Māori agri-business, and a transition to organics, to hua parakore, or biologics, and more sustainable forms of farming.

Matariki is also an excellent time for whānau to create food plans for the year, and to be more mindful of our consumption, of how and what we eat, and where we source our kai from.

To create a food plan is to not live week-by-week in our consumption, but to think about participating in a sustainable food system which requires planning. To think about what we might want to do over the next 12 months as we come into Matariki and how we have been engaging with our food system.

Physical health for Māori is about being connected to the whenua. When we engage in Māori food systems, and when we are eating produce from Māori growers, or a particular hua parakore organic produce, we are not only getting the benefit of that hua (produce), but we are also getting those connected benefits of eating food from the land that’s being grown in a kaupapa Māori way.

Through Māori food sovereignty and hua parakore we can bring kaupapa Māori back into food production for the benefit and hauora of ourselves, our whānau and communities.