Agroecology, grounded in local knowledge and communities, applies ecological principles to agricultural systems. Indigenous agroecology is an opportunity for mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) and totohungatanga Moriori (Moriori knowledge) to inform and generate innovation in farm practices. It focuses on guardianship of the land and the waters that flow through it, based on the traditional and contemporary experience of Māori and Moriori agricultural practitioners.

This Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga project, lead by Principal Investigator Dr Marion Johnson, commenced in 2012 and is responsive to community concerns and records local knowledge that is rapidly disappearing to create a unique low-input farming model underpinned by indigenous knowledge, science and technology. Te Rongoā (traditional Māori knowledge of medicinal plants) offers exciting potential for the maintenance of stock health and for promotion of biodiversity.

Improving stock health, the biodiversity and health of farm waterways and aligning mātauranga and science are the primary research goals. The key outcome is developing an economically viable multi-functional working model of agricultural stewardship, which supplies unique farm products with a low chemical signature, to meet growing global demands.

This project builds on an earlier NPM project: Adapting principles from Te Rongoa into ecologically and culturally sustainable farm practice.

The project's comprehensive final research report is available here for download.  

The research report illustrates some of the areas of knowledge that are important to agroecology. It also highlights the necessity of farmers, whānau and specialists talking, working and adapting together for a common good.

The report begins by introducing the concepts of Agroecology and Indigenous Agroecology framed for Aotearoa New Zealand. Traditional land managements are explored as is the use of geographical information systems and visualisation to aid discussions of change. Indigenous agroecology requires a meeting of local culture and science so the challenges for communities in working with  Mātauranga Māori and Science and the problems faced by Indigenous communities in retaining the participation of youth are discussed.

We depend on healthy water ways, healthy livestock and a broad diversity to support our lands and livelihoods, the multiple roles played by native plants in farm systems are enumerated and the problems of pollution and possibilities of bioremediation discussed. Two final chapters illustrate the suggestions for local applications of Ahuwhenua Taketake on our research link farms.

This document is a beginning, making a contribution to the development of an alternative land management paradigm in Aotearoa New Zealand. We hope that it will provide a context for dialogue and change.

Some project outcomes:

1.    With the help of research link farms and many community partners indigenous perspectives on biodiversity and land management were recognised. The recollection of land use, previous management of stock, pastures and animal health, the historical significance of land underpinning the concept of Indigenous Agroecology were recorded

2.     Comprehensive reports of findings published and shared, with specific suggestions for local application on research link farms

3.     Management options were digitised and mapped within the context of acquired and intensively surveyed spatial data using a Geographical Information System (GIS) so that communities could visualise how changes might affect the farm. 

Select Outputs


Johnson, M. (2015). He Ahuwhenua Taketake Indigenous Agroecology in Aotearoa New Zealand in Indigenous Agroecology He Ahuwhenua Taketake. Auckland, NZ: Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga.


Johnson M, Moore T (2016) Trends in Parasitology, Science and Society, Parasites, Plants and People 19-APR-2016 DOI 10.1016/

Moore A B, J. M., Lord, J, Coutts, S, Pagan, M, Gbolagun, J, Hall, G B. . (2015). Applying Spatial Analysis to the Agroecology-led Management of an Indigenous Farm in New Zealand. Ecological Informatics. 10.1016/j.ecoinf.2015.11.009 

Conference Presentations

Johnson M (2015) Parasites, Plants and People. 25th International Conference of the World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology, 16-20 August, Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Johnson M, Ataria J, Champeau O, Moore T, Wehi P,  Whaanga-Schollum D, Kearney E, Hudson M. (2014) He Ahuwhenua Taketake. NPM  6th Biennial International Indigenous Development Research Conference, 25- 28 November, Auckland, New Zealand.

Johnson M, Hudson M (2014) Contributions from Mātauranga Maori and Totohungatanga Moriori to biodiversity on agricultural land in Aotearoa New Zealand. International Society for Ethnobiology June 1-7 Chamkar, Bhutan.

Johnson M, Hudson M, Champeau O, Ataria J (2013) Transforming Agriculture with Native Plants and Indigenous knowledge. ECOTAS (Joint Ecological Societies of Australia and New Zealand) November 24-29 Auckland, New Zealand.

Johnson M,  Ataria  J, Champeau  O  Hudson, M  Lord J  Wehi  P  Whaanga-Schollum  D  and Moore  T. (2013,) Indigenous Agroecology. Poster. VII Southern Connection Congress, January 21-25, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Johnson, M., and Walters T (2013, 20-25 October 2013). Plenary – Māori Traditional use of native Plants. Paper presented at the meeting of 5th Global Botanic Gardens Congress Dunedin,

Project commenced:

Research Lead(s) and Team

A former shepherd and farm manager, Dr Marion Johnson combines academic science and research with practical and traditional farm knowledge. Now a Senior Scientist at The Future Farming Centre, Lincoln. Dr Johnson holds degrees in Agricultural Science, Environmental Biology and Veterinary Parasitology.

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