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Building Bio-Cultural Resilience on the Navajo Nation

In 2006, a little seed money funded one range management workshop and evolved into all aspects of land and community ethic and larger, multi-year grants. Start- up funding from the Packard Foundation helped our Navajo colleagues create Hasbídító, a tri-chapter, Navajo-run organization dedicated to building economic and ecological resilience in the region. They actively serve the Navajo Chapters of Ojo Encino, Torreon and Counselor, and their mission is to create sustainable opportunities for their people through projects that utilize the communities' talents, skills and knowledge. Their ultimate goal is to build capacity for the sake of healthier landscapes and healthy people.

The three Chapters of the Navajo Nation sit on the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau, 30 miles west of Cuba, New Mexico, encompassing more than 276,000 acres. Our work in this tri-Chapter region is focused around building on traditional resilience strategies to climate change by restoring hózho--a Navajo word that means "walking in beauty" or living in a manner that strives to create and maintain balance, harmony, beauty and order. In essence, it's about rediscovering a land ethic, and it requires building local capacity and testing strategies that make land-based activities economically viable and resilient in the face of climate change.

Since 2006, the Quivira Coalition has been actively working with these communities to build a resilient bio-cultural system. A principal strategy that emerged from our work involved engaging new and diverse conservation constituencies, and focusing our efforts on ecologically significant elements of the larger landscape.
Ojo Workshop

In 2008, The Christensen Fund awarded the Quivira Coalition a substantial two-year grant to implement a project entitled "The Tribal New Ranch Network." The goal of the two-year grant was to assist tribal communities in expanding their efforts to build economic and ecological resilience, principally by helping them: (1) develop the capacity to plan and implement ecological restoration projects that use local materials and labor; (2) to plan and implement managed grazing of livestock, and (3) to begin a proactive management program for feral horses.

Sanchez with Corn1

In 2009 a grant from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation entailed restoring abandoned floodwater farm fields for the purpose of jump-starting a local food system, and simultaneously healing vital components (i.e. alluvial fans) of an otherwise degraded landscape. These activities dove-tailed, but did not overlap, with the objectives set forth in The Christensen Fund grant. The Christensen Fund was interested in addressing the implications of, and solutions to, feral horses on a Native landscape, while Packard was interested in tackling land restoration and building a local food system. We considered ourselves very fortunate to have found two sources of funding that were perfectly complementary to each other, without being redundant.

The overwhelming success of the endeavor, and financial support from both of these grants, made it possible for the Quivira Coalition to apply for a three-year grant from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation in 2010, and again in 2012, a two-year grant from The Christensen Fund. The combined funding from both foundations enabled us to expand the bio-cultural resilience-building program.
Gardening Workshop Web

Over time, the focus has become more targeted on individual landscapes for the purpose of producing food. Trial and error has brought the focus to enhancing local food production for individual community members. They have partnered with a local farmer who wants to gain a better understanding of how to integrate the traditions of Native American dryland agriculture with modern land management practices and is willing to share his knowledge. He has led gardening workshops in each Chapter to demonstrate soil building, constructing raised beds and educating them on the benefits of mulching. Each year, community interest and participation is increasing. Gardening workshops and seed exchange are offered in the spring with an annual Harvest Fiesta in the fall.
Spin Off  Growing

In 2013, Hasbidito received funding assistance for the community to have a Mobile Farmer's Market. The goal is for community gardeners to be able to supply produce for the market. Quivira will support this by assisting participating growers increase their yield with as much hands-on education as possible with existing funds.

Trailer Growers1
The market kicked off in 2014 with a grand opening celebration that was featured in the Navajo Times . They successfully started selling produce in each of the three Chapter communities one day a week during the growing season with five participating growers. In 2015 the number of growers has increased to 14. This is possible with a renewed 2 year grant from The Christensen Fund.

Feral on Range
Horse Clinic
One focus within the past Christensen Grant is the overwhelming impact of feral horse population on the landscape. With that funding Hasbíditó sent a community member to Zoo Montana for PZP certification. Porcina Zona Pellicida, in simple terms, is a birth control for mares (female horses), that is administered to them in a series of vaccines (shots). Only certified individuals can purchase and administer the vaccine. Numbers have reduced by half since they started this. It is a benefit to the area, not only for the landscape, but also a means of helping create economic development. Gelding clinics were also offered for male horses. PZP Brochure

Bed Everyone
Going forward, Quivira will work with Hasbíditó, with the new Christensen funding, to build infrastructure for the growers and help restore traditional agricultural and stewardship traditions that will serve as building blocks in a re-emerging local food system.