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Research to Safeguard Traditional Maori Knowledge

New Research to Safeguard Traditional Maori Knowledge

Techniques used by pre-European Maori to store their staple food source, kumara, over winter months are the subject of a new research study supported by a major grant from the Foundation for Research Science and Technology (FRST).

The $250,000 project, to be conducted over five years, is being led by Open Polytechnic Natural Resources Senior Lecturer Graham Harris, and further builds The Open Polytechnic's portfolio on Maori related research.

As Mr Harris explains, the work is part of wider research into traditional Maori food crops. 'The data we collect will provide scientific evidence to protect and maintain traditional Maori knowledge. It may also provide traditional solutions to problems encountered in contemporary crop production systems.'

In close collaboration with the local iwi, the project involves building a series of kumara pits near Blenheim to store traditional kumara varieties. It will assess how long kumara can be stored using traditional techniques based on archaeological research.

Mr Harris will be working under the auspices of Lincoln University's National Centre of Research Excellence for Advanced Bio-Protection Technologies. With an established track record in traditional Maori crop production, Mr Harris was invited to join the CoRE this year. His particular area of expertise is the experimental production of pre-European cultivars of kumara and introduced riwai (potatoes), which he has been conducting over the past five years.

Working with Mr Harris on the project will be fellow Open Polytechnic Natural Resources Senior Lecturer Mike Burtenshaw, and Open Polytechnic Honorary Research Fellows Dr Foss Leach and Dr Janet Davidson.

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