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Reclaiming indigenous seed, soil health and food sovereignty discussed at symposium

Natasha Hill, Te Rito Journalism Cadet

Hundreds of local food producers, researchers and activists are discussing positive change towards kai Atua at the three-day Indigenous Seed, Soil and Food Sovereignty Symposium, which started yesterday.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

The event calls for collaboration and wānanga towards the impacts of globalisation, capitalism and free trade agreements on indigenous kai.

Environmental researcher Dr Jessica Hutchings (Ngāi Tahu, Gujarati, Ngāti Huirapa) and activist and lawyer Annette Sykes (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Mākino) were among the speakers at the event.

Hutchings said New Zealand was now seeing its soils degraded and food systems and biodiversity suffering.

“We’re at an absolute crisis at the moment, we face the biodiversity collapse... when we talk about food sovereignty, yes it’s about the food but it’s also about the seed and it’s about the health of the soil.”

She said it was important to have healthy seeds when it came to handling kai.

“Holding our taonga seeds’

“Healthy seeds for indigenous peoples means seeds that are free from the capitalist market. Seeds that have not been commodified or had patents on them.

“The majority of our seeds in our food system are owned by corporations and they’re not actually owned, not owned but held in the hands of farmers. So, what our conference is about is ensuring that Māori that we are holding our seeds, our taonga seeds, and we’re creating networks for Māori communities. "

For Annette Sykes, this hui serves as a reminder of the history.

“The Australian government had control of our ground seeds. We didn’t like that so we protested against it. Since that day, a lot of people across the country have gone and voiced their concern and that’s why we now have this hui.

“We have asked leaders of indigenous people everywhere to come to this hui to feed us with information and ways to shout our voices to those big companies and governments all around the world.”

Day 1 of the symposium was held at Te Māhurehure marae yesterday. It will finish at Papatūānuku Kōkiri Marae in Māngere on Saturday.

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