In this platform research, our focus makes the distinction between ‘kai’ as a culturally defined Māori notion and western interpretations of ‘food’. “He moumou kai, he moumou tāngata” describes a state where our existence and futures as healthy Māori people (Mauri Ora: Human Flourishing) are put at risk because our kai sources (Te Tai Ao: The Natural Environment), including access to kai, growing kai, preparing kai, the lore/law pertaining to kai, and control of kai systems (Whai Rawa: Māori Economies) is diminishing. Without kai or wai the people will perish!
Western conceptions underpinning the politics of ‘food’ are generally unable to fully account for Māori understandings related to kai. For most countries the production and consumption of ‘food’ decisions are driven by economics, whereby the ‘food’ industry influences government policies, and takes control or sovereignty of local and national ‘food’ systems, which then limits a choice of what we eat, and threatens health and well-being.
This is reflected in Māori people’s burden of ill-health, for example prevalence of diabetes, heart conditions, mental health, plus other socio-economic impacts, such as high levels of under-achievement in education, high unemployment, lack of housing, homelessness, low or no income, violence and crime.
These conditions are often the result of the intersection of food politics, economic policies and the reproduction of the dominant societal power inequalities. This research will move beyond deficit explanations and will examine ways in which the politics of ‘food’ might be critically repositioned to enable Māori to proactively engage in re-establishing their cultural meanings in relation to kai and ultimately Māori social, cultural and economic well-being.
This research aims to develop a ‘collective framework’ incorporating āhuatanga Māori according to tikanga Māori for testing on case studies/projects that will enable Māori to protect and reclaim control over kai – a transforming framework that has at its core mātauranga Māori informed kai governance, systems of kai control, and engagement in the (re)production of kai.
This approach is consistent with a number of different rights based documents; first and foremost, the Treaty of Waitangi guarantees, or in particular, those related to the protection of forests, water and land resources; the United Nations instruments such as the Human Rights Declaration, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and other international charters and documents.
This is a collaborative research platform that includes NPM partner institutions, community organisations and a Mātauranga Māori and Kai Expert Advisory Board.