Food Sovereignty from an Indigenous perspective: Case studies of Maori of Aotearoa and Quechua peoples of Peru

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Project Duration from:: 
2013 to 2016

My PhD topic addresses the question:  Is Indigenous knowledge able to contribute to food security?

This PhD thesis investigates how the knowledge possessed by Indigenous people – New Zealand Māori and Peruvian Andeans – can contribute to improving food security.  . This comparative research focuses on the Māori principle of ‘Te Ātanoho’ or ‘good life’ and ‘Sumaq Kawsay’, the Andean principle of ‘good living’.  I am investigating traditional food production from an Indigenous perspective.

To date my study enables in-depth comparisons and analyses of Māori and Indigenous Peruvian perspectives on the provenance of food (whakapapa of food), economic resilience (whai rawa), environmental sustainability (kaitiakitanga), and Indigenous values (tikanga).

The aims and objectives of my work are:
Objective of the study
The primary purpose of this research is to conduct a comparative study of pertinent ‘Indigenous Knowledge’ of Peru and of Aotearoa, appropriate to the development of policies of food security in the two countries. Specifically, the objective of my research is to address the question: How can Indigenous knowledge contribute to improving food security?

A preliminary finding indicates that a significant potential contribution to responding to the challenges of international food security can be made by utilising indigenous peoples’ knowledge embedded in their ‘Good living philosophies’: and that Indigenous knowledge is a key to improving food security.

At this stage this aim of this research contains three aspects; (a) making available the knowledge to contribute to the growing body of scholarship exploring indigenous perspectives on food production, by providing a review of the ‘knowledge bank’ of New Zealand’s and Peru’s indigenous philosophies of food production that are windows into the world of indigenous peoples worldwide; (b) to tap into the treasure trove of knowledge implicit in Maori and Andean sustainability philosophies adopted in agricultural production and complemented by the recognition of the benefits of ancient wisdom (Indigenous knowledge) for agricultural production, contributing to more enduring food production systems; (c) to contribute to the implementation of policies to address food security at regional and national levels in Peru and New Zealand, and ultimately in international contexts.

Significance of the work and the innovations.
This research is particularly important due the fact that ‘food security’ is a major concern; it is very worrying that the world will need to feed an estimated 9.6 billion people by 2050. Therefore, it is vital for New Zealand to recognise that new research is needed that addresses the potential contribution of Indigenous people’s knowledge to the innovation systems and sustainability practices that the country engages in its contribution to food security. Ignoring that contribution of knowledge and related innovations in addressing world food shortages could hinder the incorporation of proven traditional food production methods into scientific technological approaches.

I believe both cultures include practices and innovation that are largely overlooked by experts working to achieve world food security, and food producers must value the vast knowledge of agricultural biodiversity preservation intertwined with cultural values inherited from Indigenous ancestors. Consequently, to date my unique contribution includes the handcrafting of an Indigenous research framework that is grounded on the principles of Kaupapa Māori and Peru’s bicultural protocol, tentatively referred to as the ‘Khipu Andean Model’. The significance of this investigation is that the insights inherent in Peru’s and New Zealand’s indigenous peoples’ knowledge of food security will be brought to light, and it will complement the small but growing body of knowledge that explores indigenous peoples’ philosophies of ‘good living’ as a platform for achieving food security.

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