Maara kai to keep kōeke nourished and safe

Published on Friday, 4 September 2020

Unable to do regular grocery shopping during lockdown, many of the 150 kōeke, who make up over half of all the residents in Ōhinemutu village (in the heart of Rotorua) struggled to access and afford fresh fruit and vegetables.

Concerned for the health and wellbeing of their kōeke, a group of residents within the village met to discuss how they could get a regular supply of fresh fruit and vegetables for them. Thus, the seed was planted to build and provide maara (garden) planter boxes to kōeke and the three marae - Te Papaiouru, Paratehoata and Te Kuirau - in the village.

“The whakaaro around the maara planter boxes is about providing a sustainable source of fresh herbs and vegetables and aligning with mātauranga Māori practices, like planting and harvesting by the Māori maramataka” says Cathy Williams, one of residents of Ōhinemutu village who helped to bring the idea to fruition.

“It is a kaupapa that can impact so positively in many ways, ā hinengaro, ā wairua, ā tinana. Mā te mātauranga maara kai hei oranga ki ngā whānau katoa,” says Cathy.

“Given the geothermal nature around Ōhinemutu, we encouraged the rōpū to test the environment and see what plants would thrive in geothermal/heat conditions,” says Erena Temara advisor from the Rotorua office.

With input from expert maara kai growers about what to grow at this time of the year and with a goal of harvesting at Christmas, the rōpū first built a small communal garden within the village and planted herbs and vegetables as a trial. Following the success of the trial, this weekend 40 planter boxes will be delivered to 37 homes and the three marae within Ōhinemutu village.

“As we continue to operate under various conditions due to COVID-19 the maara kai planters ensure the kōeke will have continual access to fresh herbs and vegetables. Being a vulnerable group to the virus, not only will kōeke get sustenance from the kai but they will be able to do so from within the safety of their own village” says Regional Director Waikato-Waiariki, Rachel Jones.

Te Puni Kōkiri supported the initiative through Te Pū Harakeke funding which supports projects and events at a local community level

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