Uawa/Tolaga Bay: a plan to grow a safe watercress supply

The Centre, in partnership with Plant & Food Research, won a $100,000 MBIE Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund (VMCF) grant to help the Uawa/Tolaga Bay community grow a safe watercress supply for the community.

An initial Unlocking Curious Minds project ‘keeping our watercress safe’ surveyed the sites where watercress was growing.  The survey was carried out by students of the special sustainability class at Tolaga Bay Area School, who teacher Richard Tuhaka said “just loved” getting outside, and the practical nature of the work.

A contingent of scientists from Plant & Food Research – Drs Jocelyn Eason, Ian McIvor, Keith Funnell and Hone Ropata, together with Professor Nigel French and Centre Manager, Wendy Newport-Smith, travelled to Uawa in mid-November to hear the results of the students’ work, and to see some of the watercress sites for themselves.  At the same time they visited the new Uawanui Native Plant Nursery, the subject of another VMCF grant for $100,000 secured by Plant & Food Research.

The scientists sat down with the Principal of the Tolaga Bay Area School, Nori Parata; Victor Walker (Strategic Advisor Maori – Gisborne); Richard Tuhaka; and Alison Waru (Kaiarataki Ako / Learning Leader, Uawanui Cultural Nursery Project), to develop specific plans to take these projects further next year.  The team are going to investigate hydroponic systems for growing watercress at the school, which will be both a teaching tool and a safe supply of food.  And there is a plan to take some students to Palmerston North to learn more from other experts.

These projects are truly visionary, practical, and successful at absorbing the kids in science.  In turn, the scientists are getting a kick out of seeing the real worth of the programme, the value of the expertise they can provide, and are gaining lot of cross-cultural appreciation in the process.

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