Food forests: ‘Kaitiakitanga is not a title, it's a responsibility’

By Whatitiri Te Wake

Lorinda Pereira is among the growing number of families moving back to their ancestral homelands to raise their children.

Now she’s teaching her children all they need to know to survive.

She fuses the teachings of her ancestors with a relatively new phenomenon of ‘food forests’ to sustain her family and community.

“We need to look at regeneratively living from the land. We can’t just take annual harvests. It's not a concept our tūpuna lived by and it’s not one I want to live by for my tamariki,” she said

She spent time living away in Auckland, Wellington and Kaitaia raising her six children with her husband, John. She’s committed to affording her children with the same upbringing she had growing up in Panguru, Hokianga.

Lockdown wakeup call

“I want my kids to know and learn the skills required for them to survive in a world that may change. It may not have a Pak’n’Save up the road so that they can learn to live from the land and also to give back to the land and their whenua and their people,” she said.

“We do gardening here but it’s all about giving back to the puna mātauranga o tēnei kāinga,” she said.

She started her food forest last year during lockdown, Covid-19 and the restrictions of lockdown giving her a “wake up call” and inspiring her to teach her children to utilise the resources to be self-sustaining.

Food forests are a low maintenance, sustainable method to grow food. Pereira says it mimics the ecosystem of forests thereby reaping the benefits of the different foods all year round.

“It’s succession, it’s less work. You’re letting the whenua do the mahi and you’re also regenerating the whenua as well, which is a good feel.”

“Food sovereignty; starting there. Feeding your whanau. That takes the power away from the man who is giving you money. It's giving our mana back to ourselves where we have the mana to say ‘I can feed my whānau’.”

An avid observer of the maramataka Māori, Lorinda is using this knowledge to guide her. It’s this knowledge that she believes will benefit her kids and wider community.

“We can grow some kūmara and that will be gone for a year but matauranga is what kids need to survive. The way the world is going at this time we need to equip them with the skills so they’re not only living and surviving but also thriving.”