Food sovereignty within the Gulf Islands

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Protect Aotea has teamed up with Te Āta Farms (Waiheke Island) and Whenua Warrior (Ihumātao) to look at ways of providing food sovereignty in a post-COVID-19 climate.

According to Protect Aotea, the shortage of seedlings due to the pandemic and the current drought has made it impossible for those who usually rely on gardens to get them planted.

Pearl Downton from Te Āta Farms says, “As an Island, we are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity, and the people who feel it the most are those with fewer means.

"We also are eating food that is picked days, sometimes weeks, in advance to it reaching us.  Meaning we pay more money for less nutritious food.”

Kelly Klink notes that Aotea faces the same issues, with lettuces costing last week $5.

Te Āta Farms was a major contributor to the provision of fruit and vegetables to the Aotea many years ago, says Downton.

“When I was clearing out one of our barn offices we found some old farm files dating back like 30 years and discovered our little farm used to also send produce to Aotea via the Orapiu Wharf.”

In addition to her goal of distributing planter boxes to lower socioeconomic households on Waiheke, Downton and her cousin hope to supply seedlings and help put garden planters at homes on Aotea.

“We're starting with fifteen each and hoping to grow. Fifteen batches of seedlings to Aotea concentrating on hardy vegetables like kale, cabbage, chard, etc and we’re aiming to do fifteen planter boxes for Waiheke which we will keep safe and watered at our farm until the weather turns", says Downton. 

Not stopping there, Downton reveals there are other community-based goals on the horizon.

“In Spring we will be working on grafting fruit trees and establishing an orchard at Kawa Marae, thus further aiding food sovereignty.”

The team is encouraging those who might be struggling to make contact and put their names on the list. 

"We'd like to do more but we’re a little team and can't overstretch ourselves. So if you would like to help with the Waiheke or Aotea plans and you have something that we can use as a planter box reach out to donate it. If you're someone struggling and you have something we can plant in, reach out we may have some seedlings to spare", says Downton. 

"Changing our communities to be more resilient in a post-COVID world will not be a passive undertaking. If you want to help us on our little mission we welcome anyone to make contact."