Developing a strategic and co-learning approach to farm system design was tested in a recent project undertaken by AgResearch and mana whenua with Memorandum of Understanding partner Nga Uri o Te Ngahere Trust (the Trust).

AgResearch engagement with the Trust was part of an on-going regional based pilot project. Our approach on the regional project was based on the Integrated Land Management Model developed by the Trust which approaches environmental restoration through the ethic of Kaitiakitanga and fundamental to this, the involvement of mana whenua.

Portfolio Leader for Māori Agribusiness Chris Koroheke says that AgResearch involvement with the project, through resilient rural communities funding, had a number of objectives.

“We had a role as a conduit, where first we had to make the first contacts with Nga Uri o te Ngahere Trust to develop a Matauranga Māori /Ecosystem services framework and Kaitiakitanga approach for farm system design guided by tikanga. We also used our own farm system modelling, using the INFORM model on a sheep and beef farm, to show what land retirement for biodiversity restoration would look like on farm, and consequences for the farm system.”

The work done by AgResearch scientist Estelle Dominati, Chris and Nga Uri o te Ngahere Trust Chair Garry Watson included sharing knowledge about te Ao Māori (a Māori World view) and fundamental concepts driving kaitiakitanga according to tikanga, alongside the western science framework, including the natural capital and ecosystem services approach and farm system concepts. They reflected on similarities, complementarities and differences between the two approaches and how they could be applied simultaneously to farm system design. They also identified how they can be combined to inform the use of kaitiakitanga principles in farm system design and considered who the potential end users for such a combined approach would be.

Key outputs from the project included a draft kaitiaki farm process based on te Ao Māori, including links to an ecosystem services approach, as well as the identification of the gaps in science and traditional environmental knowledge and required additional science needed to progress the model.

During this process it became clear that there was no existing research or framework answering the needs of iwi landowners for decision-making tools which bring together traditional western science and concepts of kaitiakitanga.

Chris says, “There is a significant opportunity for the agriculture sector to learn from kaitiakitanga principles, that include western science concepts such as the ecosystems approach, and to then use them for the design of farm systems which perform across economic, environmental social and cultural outcomes."

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