Reinterpreting the value chain in an indigenous community enterprise context

Merata Kawharu (Centre for Sustainability, Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand)

Abstract

Purpose

Research in the field of indigenous value chains is limited in theory and empirical research. The purpose of this paper is to interpret values that may inform a new approach to considering value chains from New Zealand Maori kin community contexts.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper derives from research that develops Indigenous research methods on positionality. By extending the “included researcher” (Kawharu, 2016) role, the research recognises the opportunity of being genealogically connected to one of the communities, which may enable “deep dive research” relatively easily. Yet practical implications of research also obligate researchers beyond contractual terms to fulfil community aspirations in innovation.

Findings

Research findings show that a kin community micro-economy value chain may not be a lineal, progressive sequence of value from supplier to consumer as in Porter’s (1985) conceptualisation of value chains, but may instead be a cyclical system and highly consumer-driven. Research shows that there is strong community desire to connect lands and resources of homelands with descendant consumers wherever they live and reconnect consumers back again to supply sources. Mechanisms enabling this chain include returning food scraps to small community suppliers for composting, or consumers participating in community working bees, harvesting days and the like.

Social implications

The model may have implications and applicability internationally among indigenous communities who are similarly interested in socio-economic growth and enterprise development.

Originality/value

The apper’s originality, therefore, derives from addressing a research gap, showing that indigenous values may provide a new approach to conceptualising value chains and developing them in practice.

Keywords

Citation

Kawharu, M. (2019), "Reinterpreting the value chain in an indigenous community enterprise context", Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 242-262. https://doi.org/10.1108/JEC-11-2018-0079

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited


Introduction

Despite the increasing interest amongst Indigenous peoples, academics and others in food and resource enterprise, community growth and related themes, research and theory development in the field on indigenous value chains is limited. This article is therefore interested in a new approach to considering value chains as they relate to Indigenous community enterprise. It reports on a New Zealand model presently being co-developed with community representatives and which may have applicability elsewhere among indigenous peoples who are similarly interested in socio-economic growth through small businesses that connect community members with their lands, foods and resources.

Economic development is, at its heart, about the advancement and growth of communities and not least, the improvement of people’s livelihoods. Future-focused goals and questions about what should be done in response to development issues like poverty reduction and eradication, housing or other area of social need are topics frequently addressed by researchers and scholars alike (Chenery and Srinivasan, 1988). In an indigenous context, the past, or history is also essential in shaping the direction(s) that economic development should take. Growth agenda are often couched in response to generations of economic and social losses, especially as they relate to land, and often population declines brought about by foreign disease or other calamities. Indigenous growth agenda are also about addressing a complex range of contemporary challenges, and they are also about melding cultural values into a programme of development and growth that is grounded in ancestral terms and forward thinking, if not also visionary in future-focussed terms. The “starting points” for them, therefore, may be many, and may run deeply and profoundly.

In addressing these varied starting points, researchers and community members in the Bay of Islands have been working together on developing a new enterprise called Pā to Plate. As a land-based micro economy model, the aim of the enterprise is to grow and distribute produce and other resources from lands and waters to the descendant market, wherever descendants may live. Food and resources may or may not be customary foods, compared to other Indigenous food sovereignty enterprises that are principally concerned with “traditional foods” (Ratten and Dana, 2015). The more important point for the programme is to develop an enterprise that reconnects descendants with land and foodscapes. A long-term goal is to re-introduce customary foods into the descendant-focussed market.

The article begins by situating “the people” in the research and the methods used. Pā to Plate is a case study of community-based participatory research (Puma et al., 2009; Ritchie et al., 2013). The article then turns to literature on Porter’s value chain and the motivations for exploring a new approach. Porter’s emphasis on the company or an organisation and its ability to derive or extract value for competitive advantage has been a standard approach to business for some time. Porter’s model helps us understand the steps and linkages between each that are important within an organisation as the organisation creates value for customers/consumers and in the process, attains a margin or profit. Yet the model by itself is incomplete within a Māori kin community development context. Rather than being driven by profit or having competitive advantage over others, their endeavours are multi-faceted and are interested in balancing cultural and economic notions of value. This article is particularly interested in examining how core values stemming from marae culture can influence and shape growth and innovation.

With this background, the article shifts its focus to investigating more specifically the centrality of marae and the core values that are now finding relevancy, followed by the broader international context of food and resource systems, including the commonalities and differences between them and Pā to Plate. The developing indigenous food sovereignty movement worldwide provides a platform for comparison, especially regarding the emphasis on balancing rights and responsibilities.

On the basis of the insights so far, the article orientates its final discussion towards the “missing elements” of the value chain for a community enterprise model. It illustrates how a value chain is being considered beyond a linear production (of value) to consumption approach and is instead being seen as a cyclical process whereby consumption reconnects consumers – who are descendants – back to source. This is the marae value chain. The revised focus helps to identify the adaptive functions of culture within a modern innovation and sustainable development context.

Methods

Data for this article derived from two things:

  1. fieldwork and surveys carried out with and in Māori communities in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand between 2016 and 2018 via funded projects (Ngā Pae o Te Maramatanga and Our Land and Water National Science Challenge); and

  2. informal discussions with community members over a much longer period as a result of the author’s own genealogical connections and engagement in community affairs.

Antecedents for Pā to Plate derived from discussions with elders and with members of the Oromahoe community in their desire to look to new ways for using land according to cultural and environmental values, and which would strengthen connections between lands (and waters) and descendants.

The article is an outcome of Indigenous-led, community-based research (CBR). The work has been a collaborative, change-orientated enterprise that investigates complex community needs, which are common characteristics of CBR (Ritchie et al., 2013; Smith, 2012; Puma et al., 2009). Research was framed by an interest in understanding community aspirations in land utilisation and socio-economic growth. Most information stemmed from culturally framed “interviews”, a survey and two thought leaders workshops held at Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands in December 2017. These are briefly explored.

While interviews are a standard social science technique, the research undertaken for this article derived from a distinct Indigenous research methodology of discussions called “kōrero”, which incorporated both formal and informal dialogue grounded in cultural etiquette.

Social science-guided interviews are characteristically technically formal and may involve systematic discussion of a project’s purpose, the reason(s) for interviewing the interviewee, any funding received for the research and consent protocols that typically require forms to be signed. Kōrero on the other hand is less technically formal and is instead concerned with establishing or re-establishing connections and relationships in the first instance as a basis to jointly cooperate with one another. Then free flow, naturally occurring, open-ended discussions may occur, covering topics related to a research programme, if not also other topics of choice that may emerge. The signing of consent forms (“ethics”) may or may not occur at first kōrero. Instead consent to engage in dialogue is given via established or establishing trust and relationships. Written consent is sought before the completion of the research programme and so satisfy university requirements.

Kōrero may take some time, given the broad scope of issues often covered related or unrelated to the research, or they may be very short if other commitments of community members take priority. The researcher fits in with the commitments and rhythm of the kōrero participant(s), taking up research opportunities as they arise as in anthropological ethnographic fieldwork contexts, and adjusts to local circumstances as necessary. Researchers such as the author also recognise the inherent complexities of undertaking research within one’s own community. As Davies (1999, p. 35) explains:

[…] both native and non-native anthropologists when researching at home must examine carefully their relationships with their own societies and refrain from assuming that belonging is either uncontested or unproblematic.

In the author’s case, her existing connections and familiarity with some members of one of the communities in the research biased her towards those people. Access to information and knowledge was not difficult because of connections, but it was constrained where there were limited or no connections with other community members. To help mediate with this partiality, survey and workshop methods involving other researchers provided additional forms of data and insights with other people.

Kōrero occurred with six community elders and Māori land trust members, as well as shorter, more informal discussions with other Māori community members, a Māori land trust farm manager and a farm consultant in the context of events being held at the community cultural centre called the marae. Kōrero were held face to face in homes, at marae, at a hotel, and at the farm sales yards of the Māori land trust, with follow up discussions either by phone or email. Each lasted between 10 min and 2 h and provided detailed insights on the importance of history, cultural values and environmental resource.

As an included researcher (Kawharu, 2016), the author is genealogically related to many of those engaged in kōrero and has been known to them, but is also removed from the day to day lives of the local communities. The author, therefore, navigated between the social science categories of insider and outsider researcher positionalities, recognising also that there is no clear distinction between the two (Merton, 1972), and instead the researcher position might be akin to being something in between (Milligan, 2016; Smith, 2012; Dwyer and Buckle, 2009). As an included researcher with various degrees of connections, the author’s position was more closely internal or insider. From this viewpoint, community socio-political nuances, cultural norms, views and issues were understood with a high degree of familiarity (Smith, 2012; Smyth and Holian, 2008). Yet, elements of outsider research positionality applied because the author was not involved in community affairs or organisations except only on selected occasions and did not have the same kind of intimate understanding of how local communities worked.

The second method used was a survey questionnaire, distributed in community settings and online, and completed by 207 respondents. Information gleaned covered a broad range of topics relating to social, cultural and economic values as well as the opportunities and challenges for developing the Pā to Plate innovation.

The third method was two thought leader workshops (wānanga). The first in December 2017 at Waitangi had approximately 12 participants including Bay community leaders and others from Australia (representing Foodladder) and another marae community who is working on community enterprise on land and water regeneration and economy development. The second workshop at Waitangi was held in September 2018 with 18 local community and researcher participants. Both workshops aimed to develop thinking on the Pā to Plate value chain.

A final point on methods. As with other Indigenous researchers undertaking research within their own communities, there are unwritten obligations that demand accountability to community which extends beyond any contractual research programme, as in the present case. Collaborative Indigenous CBR, therefore, takes on new dimensions of responsibility, which are not time-bound and are instead community outcomes-focused. A distinguishing feature, therefore, of indigenous community research by indigenous people, is that additional commitment and resources may be required to meet community expectations and aspirations. The article reports on current findings.

Literature review: the value chain and motivations for a new approach to Māori community enterprise

Porter’s foundational work (1985) describes value chains as a collection of activities of a firm, or a process within the firm. He explains:

A firm’s value chain and the way it performs individual activities are a reflection of its history, its strategy, its approach to implementing its strategy, and the underlying economics of the activities themselves (1985, p. 36).

Activities are either primary (incorporating inbound logistics, operations, outbound logistics, marketing and sales and service) or secondary (incorporating firm infrastructure, human resource management, technology development and procurement).

Many resources within an organisation – human and material – work together to transform raw materials or basic inputs into products or services that are bought by consumers/customers. Activities of the organisation add value to the basic inputs, and where they are done well, better or differently to other organisations, and where they meet needs or wants of consumers, the organisation may have a competitive advantage over others. The transformation of raw materials or inputs into outputs through value that an organisation has created enables it to extract a margin, or profit. Further:

Value is measured by total revenue, a reflection of the price a firm’s product commands and the units it can sell. A firm is profitable if the value it commands exceeds the costs involved in creating the product. (Porter, 1985, p. 38).

Porter’s emphasis on an organisation’s component parts working together as a process or system is important. Value is added at each step or in each part. The sum total of value added enables the organisation to differentiate itself from others (such as competitors). Understanding each part, and their respective “value” is therefore essential. In Porter’s own words (1985, p. 33):

Competitive advantage cannot be understood by looking at a firm as a whole. It stems from the many discrete activities a firm performs in designing, producing, marketing, delivering and support its product. Each of these activities can contribute to a firm’s relative cost position and create a basis for differentiation.

Porter’s views are helpful for understanding the internal dynamics of an organisation, but an external view is also important. Henry Chesbrough, a leading writer on open innovation, is also a critic of a firm’s inward-looking process, or what he calls closed innovation. He argues, “This paradigm counsels firms to be strongly self-reliant, because one cannot be sure of the quality, availability, and capability of others’ ideas: “If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.”” (Chesbrough, 2006, p. 20). Chesbrough adds that this is an old way of progressing innovation, especially within contemporary contexts. These arguments could apply to the value chain if and where the focus of the value – making set of processes are too inward-looking and are not nimble enough to adapt, or respond, to external environments, challenges and opportunities. Chesbrough (2006)’s thinking, therefore, adds to the emphasis placed on the value of consumers (who provide direct information on needs or wants) as argued by Collins et al., (2002). Despite limitations of Porter’s model, the value chain idea when set alongside Chesbrough, and Collins foci may guide the development of the Pā to Plate enterprise as will be discussed.

The motivations for considering a new approach to value chains as one tool to advance socio-economic innovation are numerous. There is considerable breadth in growth programmes concerning all the major planks of socio-economic life within Māori kin communities (denoted by the Māori language terms “marae” or “pā”), and it is becoming increasingly important to understand the mechanisms or models that underpin them.

Understanding what the growth agendas are and how people are pursuing them can provide insights not only into the challenges that leaders face, but also the lessons that they have learnt along the way. But insights are more than these things. They are also about understanding growth from the vantage points of both community leaders (who “lead” the growth programmes) and those whom they serve (the recipients of benefits and who also support the leaders in their diverse roles). This is, however, difficult because kin communities are not all resident locally and neither is there a singular or uniform view of the leadership driving community growth agenda. Today’s world is a world that for many Māori is characterised by distance – either geographic and/or cultural – to home communities (Williams, 2015; Statistics New Zealand, 2014; Kawharu, 2014; Robinson, 2014; Waitangi Tribunal, 1998). Indigenous peoples elsewhere also grapple with increased urbanisation plus a desire to develop enterprise that takes this into account along with recognising the centrality of land to identity and continued sustainability (Dana and Dana, 2007).

Given the geographic disconnection between families and marae over one or more generations, reduced knowledge of values and protocols associated with marae is also highly likely. Under these circumstances, there appears to be an apparent paradox: Marae values are important when they are known and are activated; and they are not important when they are not known or activated. A significant challenge today, therefore, for community leaders is to find ways to reclaim, to strengthen or to centralise the importance of marae-based values within growth and innovation agendas. A second challenge is to frame them in ways that makes sense and is relevant to an increasing diasporic kin community.

It is important, therefore, to understand how the “cultural” actually features within growth agenda, especially where cultural values can reconnect people with their heritage and landscapes. Literature on indigenous entrepreneurship often points to the importance of integrating cultural values with economic values, and recognising cultural values as powerful enablers for growth, innovation and socio-economic development (Kawharu et al., 2017; Bargh, 2012; Dana and Hipango, 2011; Dana and Light, 2011; Tapsell and Woods, 2008a, 2008b; Dana et al., 2007; Lindsay, 2005; Anderson et al., 2004). Pā to Plate is built on these premises as will be discussed. We will also see how the collective nature of entrepreneurship and community-based entrepreneurship (Kawharu et al., 2017; Dana and Light, 2011; Tapsell and Woods, 2008a; Peredo and Chrisman, 2006; Lindsay, 2005) and kinship (Kawharu et al., 2017; Peredo and McLean, 2013; Tapsell and Woods, 2008a; Tapsell and Woods, 2008b; Dana and Anderson, 2007) are key elements in Pā to Plate, as in other Indigenous enterprises. Peredo and McLean (2013) also point to how the kinship ethic works within an enterprise that is concerned with the production of goods through to consumption. This principle also applies in Pā to Plate.

Other literature (Kawharu et al., 2017; Bargh, 2012; Dana and Hipango, 2011; Tapsell and Woods, 2008a, 2008b) talk about the importance of value-based aspects of economies, as well as the importance of holistic well-being of communities that encompass economic, social and environmental values as the underpinning feature of indigenous/Māori enterprise. Again Pā to Plate is concerned with these ideas. In Māori terms, Pā to Plate is a modern, economic “tangata whenua” (people and place; “people of the land”) model of development. Everard (2011, p. 80) reiterates these elements, adding emphasis to the importance of locally-grounded solutions:

[…] the virtues of different models of food production have to be balanced with protection of other important ecosystem services provided by land, set within local geographic and cultural contexts responsive to the needs of people rather than serving the global market.

Another motivating factor to explore a new approach of enterprise development is that a new generation of community leaders are now tasked with administering major land and other resources arising out of Treaty of Waitangi claim resolutions. Māori communities are increasingly receiving lands and other resources as a result of concluding often lengthy cases concerning historical breaches of the (1840) Treaty by the government and which has seen significant resource loss. Those who are responsible for developing post-Treaty settlement growth programmes with newly received assets are faced with significant opportunities for transformative change. Integrating cultural with other social and economic values within community development strategies is important now more than ever in these contexts.

While four key contemporary motivations for Pā to Plate have been explored covering the need to: understand models underpinning numerous growth agendas; understand growth from leader and community perspectives; meaningfully respond to resident and non-resident needs and; prepare for large asset returns to communities – they are also entangled with history as alluded to. Two further motivating factors, therefore, for Māori communities to explore new tool kits for progressing economically and culturally sound land use enterprise development today are:

  1. Land and resource loss since early European settlement in the Bay of Islands from the late 1810s; and

  2. That few models since this time have transformed communities by creating sustainable long term wealth, as measured by social, economic and cultural indices, as derived from their land and water. However, what has endured are core cultural values that emanate from their marae community.

Land lost in the pre-1840 period in the Bay of Islands was significant and has collided with community wellbeing and sustainability ever since[1]. Loss has inevitably set the boundaries and constraints on economy development.

Retaining title and control (mana) over remaining lands (whenua) and looking after them (manaakitanga) has had increasing importance to leaders and their communities, not least as they grapple with how to produce food for families from a vastly reduced resource base. Local community narratives speak of mahinga kai or food gathering places in lands (including forests) and waterways, and maara or gardens which have still fed and sustained local communities (manaakitanga) even during times of economic hardships (Tane, pers. comm, 2017, Ratana, pers. comm. 2016, Ututaonga, pers. comm. 2016). The Bay of Islands economy persisted like this on small local community scales for much of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. More formalised economies emerged as small land holdings amalgamated into land entities in the mid-twentieth century throughout the Bay of Islands. Land entities like trusts and incorporations have also applied the same general principles of mana and manaakitanga in farming enterprises over generations, but to varying degrees of success (for discussion on enterprise within Māori land trusts and incorporations elsewhere regarding geothermal resources and the application of cultural values, Bargh, 2012).

In some cases, farms have financially collapsed under the burden of debt that has built up over a number of years, and have not provided anywhere enough to sustain families and communities. Some have inadequately coped with continued degraded lands and waters, have not remained central to descendants lives anymore and/or have struggled under administrative burdens to maintain current shareholder/owner databases and run farming businesses well (Tane, 2018; Kingi, 2009b, 2008, 2009a; Waitangi Tribunal, 1997, pp. 368-375; Rankin-Kawharu, 2002; Kawharu, 1977). These characteristics are known much more widely throughout the country as well. Māori land trusts have also variably dealt with other social dimensions of manaakitanga in relation to people, i.e. considering the needs and concerns of communities of interest – the “descendants” who are ancestrally connected to lands that are farmed (but who may not be shareholders or owners anymore), and the actual shareholders and owners. In relation to this point on manaakitanga dimensions, Ratten and Dana (2017, p. 7) highlight that female entrepreneurs tend towards behaviours that are outward-looking, that involve cooperation and that think about others. These foci may also sit within the manaakitanga value frame and as will be discussed in Pā to Plate, they are important guiding principles.

This article barely scratches the surface of cross-generational complexities concerning economy and wellbeing. However, there is opportunity for future land and community (re) engagement from this difficult past even if the archive of circumstances does not offer an obvious solution beyond current models of Māori land use in Northland.

The opportunity now is also reflective of the resilience of communities. As discussed elsewhere (Kawharu et al., 2017), resilience in the face of pressures, exogenous forces or challenges is also an important ingredient in entrepreneurship as it suggests an ability of groups (or individuals) to respond to challenges and to adapt. Marae communities throughout the Bay of Islands have done that. They have endured, bolstered once again by the core values of mana and manaakitanga. Put another way, the mana/manaaki dynamic has been the foundation of their economic and cultural resilience.

Marae and the emergence of Pā to plate

For the reasons described so far, the marae is the enterprise focus for Pā to Plate. Small businesses are either located within marae communities or nearby. Marae is the cultural hub of communities, signified by a ceremonial courtyard, ancestral meeting house, dining hall and related buildings. Marae also refers to people (Tapsell, 2014); that is, the people who look after the meeting house, who attend ceremonial events and who welcome guests there. In pre-colonial times, the marae was also the central place where labour groups were organised to tend to gardens or to fish (or the place where war parties were organised, among other things). In essence, economy production and consumption was generally small scale and marae community centred.

Marae communities of the Bay of Islands served as economic systems – as production systems, as distribution centres, and as labour forces. Pā to Plate extends the customary distribution model to one that comprises not only the local, but also the non-local community. It particularly aims to serve the diaspora that live beyond ancestral lands and communities and, in the process, reconnect them culturally and economically. Such opportunities may be realised, for example: via the produce/products they purchase; via whanaungatanga (kinship) links they share with the distributor, the producers and/or the elders (kaumātua) who guide the innovation; via the return of foodscraps back to source (as a practical expression of manaakitanga); and via participation in working bees and other “pā”-orientated activities. Pā to Plate is also an emergent employment opportunity for locally resident small enterprises that produce food and other produce and products that derive from the “pā” or ancestral landscape of the Bay of Islands. And in terms of the labour network dimension of marae, Pā to Plate is also about recognising complementarities: of male and female roles in the value chain; of local and non-local descendants; of marae and non-Māori producers living in the Bay (“adopting in” (whāngai) the latter into marae communities); and of people and the environment working together. Taken together, these dimensions demonstrate the application of the mana and manaakitanga principles that underpin the model.

Community elders place particular emphasis on the oranga or health of lands, waters and people, on the protection of mauri or energy of integrated socio-ecosystems, on social notions of unity amongst dispersed community members and on continuing ancestral aspirations for effective land utilisation for families and wider community good. They also emphasise the ongoing importance of cultural sites of identity centred in and around the marae to be integrated into any food or resource narratives that underpins any produce or products that may be made available to the market, and to descendants in particular. The reasoning is simple: to remind all that when they purchase from home, this is what “home” entails and means (i.e. papakainga (village), marae, awa (rivers) and maunga (mountains) (R. Tane, pers. comm, 2017)[2].

The broader goals of Pā to Plate resonate with similar initiatives elsewhere worldwide where there is increasing emphasis, or rather the increasing recognition, by communities and individuals on the connections between ancestral landscapes, food and resources, food distribution and health and well-being. Published works to date have discussed the connections between food, identity and well-being, especially for indigenous peoples (Robidoux and Mason, 2017; Coté, 2016, Hutchings, 2015; Moeke-Pickering et al., 2015; Panelli and Tipa, 2009, 2007, Gombay, 2005). Pā to Plate also sits at this junction.

The international context for Pā to plate

The development of food and resource systems emphasises aspects like reclaiming food sovereignty and rights within the food value chain. Promoting access to traditional or cultural foods, learning or re-learning traditional knowledge about foods, reducing costs associated with food (especially production and purchase), improving access to other healthy foods and other “cultural reclaiming” aspirations are all tied up under the broad rubric of food sovereignty. The Indigenous Food Systems Network in Canada and Coté (2016, p. 9) outlines four pillars of Indigenous food Sovereignty as including:

  1. sacred or divine sovereignty (food recognised as gifts from “the Creator”);

  2. participatory practices (such as harvesting);

  3. self-determination (concerning self-action based on needs for healthy and culturally adapted indigenous foods); and

  4. policy imperatives (concerning reconciling indigenous values with a wide range of land and environmental laws and policies and economic activities (www.indigenousfoodsystems.org/food-sovereignty)[3].

In their broadest sense, Pā to Plate is concerned with these aspirations, and with the desire to connect indigenous-grown foods and resources with Indigenous peoples (and wider markets). There are, however, particular foci and emphases that differ from international indigenous initiatives.

A platform of comparison of community-based indigenous food sovereignty efforts includes the Australian “bush to bottle” ideas (Cleary et al., 2008), the Indigiearth enterprise in Australia (Ratten and Dana, 2015), Ramona Farms (Arizona, USA) produce (http://ramonafarms.com), Sakari Botanicals (Oregon, USA) (www.sakaribotanicals.weebly.com), the Navajo Nation food initiatives, the Zuni food programme (New Mexico, USA), the Oneida Market (Green Bay, WI, USA) (https://exploreoneida.com/attractions/oneida-market/), and several other North American small-scale local tribal food programmes[4]. All are concerned with local community food and resource systems development and all aim to develop, promote and market traditional foods and resources. Most distribute to the open market via physical local community stores.

Other indigenous food initiatives are those of chef Mark Olive of the Bundjulung people of New South Wales in Australia. Mark has run a television cooking programme, a catering business in Melbourne, and a restaurant, all of which are based on sharing Indigenous foods (Ratten and Dana, 2015). Another Indigenous enterprise in Australia is Indigiearth which promotes indigenous foods and skincare products (Ratten and Dana, 2015). Like Mark Olive’s venture, this enterprise is distinctly indigenous knowledge-based. Both were initiated by individuals and are focussed on general markets.

Others enterprises elsewhere include the multi-tribal foods market the “Mobile Farmers Market” (https://mobilefarmersmarket.localfoodmarketplace.com) which brings together a wide range of Indigenous products via Web portal ordering. Another food market that is indigenous and non-indigenous-led is in Molokai, HI and which brings together produce of Molokai Island small businesses to consumers via online food ordering (http://molokai.localfoodmarketplace.com/Products).

All respond in some way to food security issues, where access to healthy, nutritious foods is important. So what are the differences between these examples and Pā to Plate? A starting point is to clarify what is meant by “healthy, nutritious foods”. Differences emerge when considering the kind of food and resources produced, the producers and the source or origin of produce. The Pā to Plate value chain is primarily concerned with non-customary whole foods and resources (including native plants) produced in the Bay of Islands ancestral landscape (“Pā”; home) by either local Māori or non-Māori enterprises. It is not focussed on securing foods for market from other districts (compared and contrasted to the Mobile Farmers Market, Oneida and others). A second stage development would see customary foods and resources being offered such as fresh water eels or tuna, but as yet there are no commercial production-scale enterprises of Bay of Islands origin for such things. The international cases with the exception of the Molokai market are by contrast primarily interested in customary foods and resources as healthy options, for their own communities, but also the wider market.

In some cases, the general public is the primary market (compared to Pā to Plate where descendant consumers are the target market) and the main purpose of these initiatives is to operate a commercial enterprise wherein profits can be redistributed back to community initiatives (for example, the American-based Oneida Market, Seka Hills and Ramona Farms).

Another key difference between Pā to Plate and several First Nation enterprises is seen at the producer-end of the value chain. The North American programmes are largely, if not exclusively, geared towards Indigenous operations. By contrast, Bay of Islands communities have responded differently to similar circumstances of land loss where produce and other resources may derive from non-Māori enterprises as well (like Molokai). The rationale is two-fold. First, lands are still considered as part of an ancestral estate even if owned by non-Māori community families and businesses, and may still, therefore, contribute to strengthening cultural connections particularly with non-resident descendants. Second, non-Māori businesses are often already well-established and have the commercial experience that Māori small businesses do not have. Partnering with non-Māori enterprises is, therefore, important in the Pā to Plate model especially at the supply/producer end. Another differentiating factor between Pā to Plate and other indigenous food system models is the emphasis by the former on connecting home lands with descendants who are not only the resident community but also non-residents. This principle of strengthening direct and specific connection between particular homelands and local and non-local descendants was not overt elsewhere in international food system models.

Yet despite the differences, there are shared motivators between Pā to Plate and its international indigenous counterparts. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (2016, p. 227), for example, explains that drivers for value chain transformation include urbanisation and diet change. Continued urbanisation among Bay of Island and wider Māori communities (Tapsell, 2014; Robinson, 2014; Kawharu, 2014; Williams, 2014) and diet changes (for example, increased consumption of processed foods (Lanumata et al., 2008) equally apply. Māori also have some of the highest rates of poor health as an ethnic group. Pā to Plate survey results (discussed further below) also found the desire for improved health to be a driver for improving food security and food quality by purchasing whole foods from homelands.

While much of the literature on food sovereignty concerns a “reclaiming” agenda such as re-asserting control over knowledge, land, food, other resources and customary practices, the corollary of these rights-focused arguments is the responsibility-focused goals. Coté (2016, p. 1), for example, draws attention to custodial duties and relationships between people and place. These ideas apply directly to Pā to Plate and help to emphasise the importance of balancing both rights (mana) and responsibility (manaakitanga) in the initiative. Coté (2016, p. 1) explains:

“Indigenizing” food sovereignty moves beyond a rights based discourse by emphasizing the cultural responsibilities and relationships Indigenous peoples have with their environment and the efforts being made by Indigenous communities to restore these relationships through the revitalization of Indigenous foods and ecological knowledge systems as they assert control over their own foods and practices.

These aspirations hold true for Pā to Plate, not least the cultural management “in environment” functions (kaitiakitanga), which as discussed is an important dimension of manaakitanga (service, consideration of others) and revitalising customary knowledge such as concerning the protection of wellness of people and the whole of environment. Other examples of applying kaitiakitanga for an economic market model include the fencing or riparian planting of streams and rivers from cattle and the nursery growing of native tree species. Another dimension again as noted is the desire of community members to reciprocate the nurturing aspects of land as food or as other resources (including, for example, indigenous plants) by returning residue or left over foods to lands as compost (survey respondent idea). There is also an emergent idea of exploring, through partnership with Australian entrepreneurs, the culling of pests such as the possum and converting into liquid, foliar fertiliser. The fertiliser could be directly used by local producers as well as be available for purchase to the Pā to Plate community of consumers.

Pā to Plate is, therefore, not just concerned with sovereignty or renewed controls and roles over food systems. It is more intrinsically about reclaiming authority as well as cultural and economic connections and responsibilities in ancestral lands, whether that land continues within the tenure system of marae communities. Food is one source to achieve that, but so too are the hua or other resources of lands and waterways of the marae locale (Kawharu, 2010) which may collectively nourish cultural and economic connectedness with those of a dispersed kin community that live near and afar. A “land sovereignty” aspiration vs a food sovereignty agenda that energises reconnections between marae as place and marae as people, is the more fundamental goal.

In summary, there are multiple motivators for co-developing Pā to Plate. They begin with addressing the deep history of resource loss. Motivations then extend to continuing and enhancing the pervasive resilience within marae communities and finding ways to accentuate core marae values that have characterised their survival so far: mana (customary authority, control, title), manaaki (consideration of others), whanaungatanga (kinship), whāngai (adopting in) and whenua (land).

Progressing Pā to plate

The next stage of Pā to Plate is to develop the value chain based on these principles. A starting point is to understand the role of members of the system, especially when they are connected not business and in whakapapa/genealogical senses. This helps to understand the sources of success and how each relate to others. Each individual is recognised for their inputs. These include (and are not limited to) the cultural knowledge of landscapes that they may possess, such as the knowledge held by elders who despite potentially not being of working age, nevertheless hold the guiding cultural knowledge that secures the relevance of a Pā to Plate value chain within cultural terms (R. Tane, pers. comm. 2016). They can point to customary resource sites, gardens, fishing zones, and they can share knowledge on resources for their economic, medicinal or other cultural benefits. Within the Bay of Islands ancestral landscape, tuna (eels), for example, were a sought-after delicacy (R. Tane, pers. comm. 2018). Plants and berries of native forests were daily foods of many (Ratana, pers. comm. 2016).

Elders and other community members may also articulate the resource strengths that now exist, patterns of change to them as a result of, for example, climate change, intensified farming or other practices that affect the health of lands, waters and resources within. In terms of the human dimension, knowledge of connections between individuals and groups (business entities) as held by elders and other community representatives helps to situate any collective enterprise within a genealogically-framed community context. This knowledge functions as further competitive advantage to other cooperatives or organisations that may not have this, and in terms of the descendant consumer market where a. relationships between consumer and producer are important and b. where consumers want to purchase specifically from their home communities and/or relatives.

Ongoing market information regarding cultural needs analysis will, therefore, be important for Pā to Plate suppliers such as understanding the value placed by descendant consumers on foods and resources from marae and/or wider ancestral landscapes, and any reciprocal relationships between themselves and their homelands that they may desire. Cultural “needs” are not homogenized or the same for all descendant consumers. There will be a scale range where some desire strong connection or engagement while others desire weaker connection or engagement.

In terms of small entrepreneurial enterprises who “produce” from the landscape, they may provide other layers of knowledge about their produce and the lands from which they came. In a modern market context where the source of food is becoming increasingly important, as well as other factors such as organic produce and environmentally-sound practices to produce, the definition of local attributes in produce/products are other sources of competitive advantage, as kaumātua have already explained (above). However, as with cultural needs analysis, knowledge of descendant consumer needs or interests in relation to the environment source of produce and the relative importance of environmental management practices (kaitiakitanga) in producing foods and resources will need to be understood on an ongoing basis if supply responses are to match demand ideas.

Across most, if not all, value chain participants, there is also the knowledge of kinship between parties: who connects to who, how and where. This cultural dimension is essential in an agri-food business context when, for example, supply issues of a produce/product is limited, but connections with others in the kinship business network may function as additional or back-up supply sources. These information sets along with commercial knowledge, plans and business practices provide the charter for the value chain to develop and grow. And, the strength of the collaborative kinship collective within a business cooperative, when functioning, may act as a competitive advantage and assist in securing successful outcomes.

Ultimately, there will be a need for an implicit understanding that the functions of each partner will contribute towards not only the success of the whole interlinked system (Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute, 2012, p. 33) but also how their part contributes towards strengthening cultural and economic connections by the consumer/descendants with their ancestral landscapes.

Where weakness or difficulties emerge, a micro perspective of each part also enables early detection of any constraints or limitations that people may face, along with any resolutions deemed suitable in both business and in kinship terms, such as the supply issues noted. (Cleary et al., 2008, p. 2) picks up the point about the importance of inter-relationships between parts of the value chain in relation to Aboriginal communities and bushfoods, adding that “Successful chains depend on integration, coordination, communication and cooperation between partners”. Elsewhere, agri-food value chain research in Canada echoes these sentiments regarding the value of closer strategic relationships between parts of the chain, especially between suppliers and customers (Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute, 2012, p. 5). Boehlje (1999, p. 1029) adds that interdependence between elements of a system is important so that food production, processing and distribution operate as “[…] the optimal strategy for growth and expansion in the agricultural industries.” Pā to Plate would similarly operate with these three foci working interdependently. This view is also underpinned by the idea that a better understanding of the needs of value chain members enables better responses compared to transactional modes of operation which are not primarily (if at all) interested in two-way dialogue.

Similarly, supply chains are interested in focusing on the upstream or input steps of a chain (performed by suppliers and producers), and efficiencies in these steps to meet customer’s values. These propositions are not unimportant within the cultural value chain of Pā to Plate. There is, however, a better way of conceptualising them from an integrated value chain perspective, which focusses more on knowing what consumers value and working back from this start point to develop efficiencies (“doing things right”) and effectiveness (“doing the right things”) (Bonney et al., 2009, p. 4). Indeed, the Pā to Plate initiative evolved with this proposition. It is “consumer” descendant community-driven. As consumers, they define what they were interested in, and in the process, their collective ideas set out the first steps for developing a collaborative value chain “of value”. A “consumer” focus, and especially knowledge derived from understanding their interests, has been considered as an essential strategic asset (Collins et al., 2002) and a fundamental element of competitive advantage. It would only be so, however, when knowledge is acted upon.

Ultimately, as several authors have noted, closer working relationships at all steps of the value chain contributes towards several outcomes including co-innovative practices, activating a shared vision, strong communication that is timely, accurate and detailed, localised problem-solving, mutual outcomes, as well as increased revenues, reduced costs and improved risk management (Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute, 2012, pp. 32-33; Collins et al., 2002; Boehlje, 1999).

Successes will depend on the flexibility and malleability of the system to adapt to current and emergent challenges, and to adapt quickly. This is certainly the case in terms of demand which will fluctuate and change as descendant consumer needs change and/or grow. A related question is how suppliers, such as the Māori land trusts and other small enterprises (such as family businesses who produce any range of foods and other products like Māori medicines or native tree seedlings) will similarly address future unknowns relating to demand and how or whether their produce/products can be supplied timely (and in terms of quality) to meet demand.

Other value chain factors relate to Pā to Plate. In relation to agricultural industries generally as Boehlje (1999, p. 1029) suggests:

Competition or rivalry occurs not in the form of individual firms competing with one another for market share within a stage but in the form of supply chains competing for their share of the consumer’s food expenditures.

With an increasing shift in food retailing to customers (Boehlje, 1999, p. 1029), and an increasing desire of people to know more about the source of their food, Pā to Plate directly responds to these modern-day views. Survey results of 207 participants suggest that descendant consumers are both interested in purchasing food from marae homelands (90 per cent), and are also interested in knowing where the food originates. On the latter point, 80 per cent said that it was very or extremely important to know where their food originated from. In relation to Boehlje’s (1999) point about competing demands on consumers’ food expenditure, and by implication choices to purchase food, survey results show that just over 46 per cent of respondents buy food from traditional supermarkets. Another 41 per cent described buying from ‘other’ places, but on closer examination, “other” often meant a combination of sources such as supermarket and home gardens or supermarket and local markets. A success marker for Pā to Plate will, therefore, be in the extent to which it can tolerate the continued behaviours of consumers in their current purchasing habits and cope with transitions or shifts towards new habits which result in purchasing foods from the Pā to Plate model. Systems that enable ease of purchase and delivery are, therefore, essential, if Pā to Plate is to respond to current behaviours and in fact, change them[5].

Pā to Plate has no similar competitor in terms of market share, but there are other entities that are also online food options such as “My Food Bag”, as well as the relatively new local food markets that have become established in the Bay of Islands such as the two farmers markets in the small town Kerikeri. A non-culturally framed online food market also operates from the large Northland town called Whangārei. If people are largely interested in price, source of produce, and ease of purchase, then this food purchasing option may well suit, but where people desire the option of purchasing from ancestral home lands as well, then Pā to Plate provides the opportunity. Outside the region, the Ahikā Kai enterprise is another model underpinned by similar goals to Pā to Plate including retaining lower producer costs through online systems and direct to consumer selling (Barr et al., 2018).

Limitations of model: towards a new model

Discussions so far have concentrated on understanding basic tenets of a value chain within an agri-food context and their application to the Pā to Plate programme. Contrary to Porter’s emphasis on internal workings of a value chain, Pā to Plate is also concerned with external, descendant consumer, environmental, social and historical factors as discussed. These views align with Chesbrough’s (2006) emphasis on open innovation and of looking to internal and external ideas and pathways to grow and develop firms’ technology, and with Collin’s et al., (2002) consumer emphasis. While value chain models are typically linear, with a beginning – production – and an end – consumer, the Pā to Plate model is a circular value chain that connects producers and consumers, and back to producers again (via returning food scraps back to land, descendant consumers participating in marae/local “pā” gardening or other activities related to food and resource production).

The “return” feedback from consumers to producers is an important, and defining, characteristic that also emphasises the centrality of cultural values in a value chain. The “missing elements” of the value chain can now, therefore, be addressed as represented in the following diagram (Figure 1):

The attributes of the chain are:

  1. Ranginui – Papatūānuku duality

    • Input resources:

      • climatic conditions (to enable growth);

      • waterways (to support growth); and

      • land (as the nest of produce).

  2. Marae/land (and whānau) enterprises (as independent entities and as a cooperative/trust): adding value, producing:

    • Hua a whenua:

      • Hua maara (vegetables, fruit);

      • flora, seedlings;

      • tuna (eels), koura (freshwater crayfish);

      • medicines;

      • honey;

      • nutraceuticals; and

      • beef, sheep, dairy.

    • Customary knowledge of resources, resource sites, ancestral landscape;

    • Packaging, labelling;

    • Collection/warehousing;

    • Distribution network (delivery transport); and

    • Marketing, sales (including informal community networks (“word of mouth”), online ordering system and promotion).

  3. Descendant consumers:

    • Consumption of produce/products;

    • Source of market and innovation knowledge (on interests, needs, wants, ideas for enterprise development);

    • Provider of recyclables (e.g. food scraps); and

    • Source of labour (e.g. “Pā to Plate” enterprise/marae working bee, whānau harvesting day/activities).

The relevance and application of marae values have been explained throughout this article. To expand on how whakapapa applies in the value chain, so far it has been considered as “genealogy”. A wider-embracing interpretation sees it as a structural ordering of the universe and of space and time. Whakapapa is represented in the lateral kin connections (whanaungatanga) between value chain participants between producer to consumer as discussed, via the duality of Ranginui and Papatūānuku (where each nurture/whāngai the other) from whom resources of the environment emerge, and conceptually via the evolution of Pā to Plate as it grows and develops new layers (papa) of enterprise over time. Like any innovation, the whakapapa or “genealogy” of Pā to Plate begins with an idea, which then matures into a refined set of ideas, plans and value chain development. Whakapapa also relates to the ongoing growth of produce and resources from Papatūānuku each season or each year, and which may see new resources (“new generations”) added to the offerings as and when available. Whakapapa, therefore, provides an important over-arching cultural framework relating to both human and environmental dimensions of the value chain.

Conclusion

Pā to Plate has emerged as a socio-economic enterprise concept that directly responds to specific historical characteristics of the Bay of Islands. Significant land lost early in the colonial period curtailed any reasonable economic and cultural growth for generations to come; growth that was further stunted by urbanisation and by other exogenous forces of Crown origin. These circumstances require new thinking to address old problems. Pā to Plate is a marae value chain model that may address these complex problems. It provides renewed access to foods and resources of ancestral landscapes. Other benefits include employment, strengthened connections between a scattered descendant diaspora and strengthened shared kin-community identity.

Porter’s value chain model provides a starting point for framing socio-economic enterprise development, but the value chain is incomplete by itself. Chesbrough’s open innovation and inwards/outwards perspective along with Collins’ consumer foci help to guide development further. Ultimately, however, a cultural values perspective on value chains provides a resolution to the gaps in literature and to understanding how value chains may be developed within kin communities. In the case the Pā to Plate, it is the inter-connected marae values that embrace the mana/manaaki dynamic, along with whakapapa, whāngai, whanaungatanga and whenua that underpin and shape value chain formation and functioning. The value chain may not be a lineal, progressive sequence of value from supplier to consumer, but may instead be a cyclical system and highly consumer-driven. The renewed focus emphasises the progression of a value chain according to both internal (resident) community needs, values, production and consumption and external (non-resident) community consumer cultural and economic interests. The success of Pā to Plate will depend on many variables including adaptability of the system as a whole and its parts. The internal/external dialectic provides a charter view for keeping perspective on successes, opportunities and threats or challenges. The guiding values previously established as important in the life of kin communities, will continue to guide Pā to Plate so long as there is will, demand and continued need.

Figures

Marae value chain showing core elements in a value chain loop

Figure 1.

Marae value chain showing core elements in a value chain loop

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Websites

Kōrero

Dean Broomfield.

Leon Penney.

Raiha Ratana.

Renata Tane.

Wiremu Tane.

Moko Weera Ututaonga.

Further reading

Bryceson, K.P. and Smith, C.S. (2008), “Abstraction and modelling of agri-food chains as complex decision making systems”, European Association of Agricultural Economists seminar System Dynamics and Innovation in Food Networks, Innsbruck-Igls, February 18-22, pp. 146-160, available at: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/6457698.pdf (accessed 25 June 2018).

Chenery, H. and Srinivasan, N.T. (1998), Handbook of Development Economics, Vol. 1, Elsevier, Amsterdam.

Stirling, B. and Towers, R. (2007), “Not with the sword but with the pen”, The taking of the Northland Old Land Claims. Part 1 Historical Overview, A Report commissioned by the Crown Forestry Rental Trust, pp. 1-1077.

Corresponding author

Merata Kawharu can be contacted at: merata.kawharu@otago.ac.nz