Des Henderson likes to keep things simple, so he has a simple explanation for studying rongoā Māori.
“I’ll take what I’ve learned back to my whānau, the rongoā goes into our māra and that contributes to the hauora of our whānau,” he says.
It really is that simple.
“I don’t like to make things too complicated.”
Des has completed the Level 4 Certificate in Rongoā course at the Ngāmotu campus of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and says they are developing the māra at Whakaahurangi Marae in Stratford and wanted to include rongoā plants among the plantings.
“We thought it might be good to learn a bit more about it before we randomly planted. That’s what initially got me here and once the whānau found out what I was doing they were very encouraging.
“We’re actually in the planning stages now so it will help us with knowing what we can actually plant there, what’s local to our area, what naturally grows there, so it’s given us the knowledge we need to continue that journey.”
While Des is “not a classroom person,” he says the course has been a good learning experience.
“I’ve enjoyed the journey and I’ve learned lots, and particularly enjoyed the wānanga when we’re actually out in the ngahere. If you’re thinking about the hauora of your own whānau, it’s a good course to start your journey with.”
And developing the māra at his marae is becoming a journey for the whole community.
“We’re bringing in the local schools next year to get involved in our māra,” Des says.
“They’ll be doing permaculture in there, so part of that is we will be looking at planting more natives instead of the recommended plantings. At the end of the day we want it to be a place of learning and sharing knowledge as well as creating a resource not only for kai but also for raranga and rongoā.
“There are lots of very talented people in our community and I’m just contributing my little bit.”