Solution Overview

Solution Name:

Béésh Astogii Be Iiná-Arrowhead Lifeway

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One-line solution summary:

To restore ancestral foodways through farming that supports and sustains Indigenous people in rural communities

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Pitch your solution.

The Navajo Nation consist of 27,000 square miles of land with only 13 grocery stores. Farmington, Flagstaff, Page, Gallup, and Cortez are border towns of the Navajo Nation and requires long distance driving to access more than one grocery store and essentials. The food system on the Navajo Nation negatively impacts the wellbeing of the people and creates food insecurity that increases risk of diseases or negative health outcomes. There are numerous barriers to accessing nutritious foods on the Navajo Nation but there is land awaiting to be farmed on.

Arrowhead Lifeway proposes traditional knowledge and modern technology to improve and revitalize ancestral foodways by implementing agriculture. Revitalizing knowledge and practices can proactively address food insecurity that will restore Hózhó (holistic well-being). Restoring Hózhó to the community will have positive health impacts on the people and reconnect the people to the land, water, and all life.

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What specific problem are you solving?

According to the USDA, the Navajo Nation is classified as a food desert with only 13 grocery stores operating. Majority of the stores are stocked with highly processed foods with low nutritional value and limited fresh produce of fruits and vegetables. The limit accessibility to grocery stores and nutritious foods impacts food security and the health and well-being of the people. The health disparities of disrupted ancestral food ways, high poverty rates, climate change, and environmental disruption has contributed to the Navajo Nation’s food insecurity rate at 77%. The lack of nutritious food on the Navajo Nation has led to increased risk of chronic disease like obesity, hypertension, & type 2 diabetes. The health disparities among the Navajo Nation indicates the need for revitalization of agriculture and healthy foods to improve the food security and the health and well-being of the people.

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What is your solution?

Arrowhead Lifeway (AL) solution is to revitalize ancestral foodways by implementing cultural farming techniques among the AL farming land. We aim to teach the community of Shiprock to reclaim and reconnect with Indigenous foods. AL seeks to advance food sovereignty in the community to design and sustain food systems that will prioritize the people’s physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual for future generations. 

Through AL efforts, we will bring together community members and stakeholders to advocate and support Indigenous food systems. Working with tribal communities requires an understanding of root social and environmental determinants of health and historical trauma that plays a role in adverse health outcomes. With that, we are poised to conduct culturally appropriate methodologies in the community, build awareness and develop strategies that will leverage equitable and sustainable food systems in the community.

Incorporating modern and traditional farming techniques and technology will drive a sustainable development of agriculture by the use of modern farming technology of tractors, seed planters, farm tools, tractor tools, and using water piping. Traditional farming techniques will be incorporating ancestral knowledge that was passed down from our Diné elders.

 

 

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Strong preference will be given to Native-led solutions that directly benefit and are located within the Indigenous communities. Which community(s) does your solution benefit?

Our target population is our Diné relatives in the Shiprock, New Mexico community who will benefit from the revitalization of ancestral foodways by implementing cultural farming techniques that will sustain for future generations. Shiprock, NM is a small community that consist of generational farmers. In 2015, the Gold Kind Mine spill occurred and created an environmental disaster. The Diné people have a special connection with the land, water, plants, and animals. The spill had impacted the Shiprock community farmers the worst. To see the water turn yellow impacted the elders and farmers the most because they were not able to sustain their plants and corn pollen which is vital for their ceremonies.   

Arrowhead Life is based in Shiprock and the majority of the members are from Shiprock and surrounding communities. AL understands the community needs and seeks to provide resources, workshops, and trainings to local farmers. Based on anecdotal evidence, Diné people show strong interest in revitalizing traditional agriculture and foods but lack access to information and education on traditional teachings. AL is providing a pathway toward healthier lifestyles and creating opportunities for the community to provide exposure and education to ancestral foods and farming.

AL will provide modern and traditional farming techniques and technology to provide a wide variety and immense of fresh produce in the community and the Navajo Nation. This is an opportunity for the community to benefit from new farming techniques and gain traditional knowledge from elders and youth who have been farming their whole lives.

Our long-term goal is to create a food hub in the Shiprock area. We want to provide each farmer with a business plan and food safety training that will stimulate rural economic development and improve local food producers. A food hub in Shiprock will increase consumption of healthy and locally grown fruits and vegetables among Diné families.

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Which dimension of the Fellowship does your solution most closely address?

Provide healthy and sovereign food, sustainable energy, and safe water
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Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Fellowship and your selected dimension.

Our solution uses both a holistic approach of traditional knowledge and modern technology to improve and revitalize ancestral foodways by implementing cultural farming techniques. AL is focused on decreasing food insecurity on the Navajo Nation by providing sustainable food systems and drive Navajo economy through ancestral teachings.  

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In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Shiprock, NM, USA
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What is your solution’s stage of development?

Pilot: An organization deploying a tested product, service, or business model in at least one community
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Who is the primary delegate for your solution?

Breanna K Lameman

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Please indicate the tribal affiliation of your primary delegate.

Diné

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Is your primary delegate a member of the community in which your project is based?

Yes

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More About Your Solution

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process
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Describe what makes your solution innovative.

Continuing the work of our ancestors through agriculture and feeding our community is not new but slowly being forgotten. The disruption of colonization, violence among MotherEarth, and displacement of children long ago has created historical trauma for our people. Some have lost their identity, culture, and family. The traditional stories and cultural teachings are rooted in Diné teaching of agriculture. The tádídíín, corn pollen is used for ceremonies, prayers, and offering to the Holy ones and provide that positive spirituality. Arrowhead Lifeway is a pathway to reconnecting and engaging in Diné spirituality with the land, water, and plants. This will convey to heal with the land and to have reverence for traditional foods. Our concept is not new and has been existing for many ages. AL wants to incorporate modern technology and traditional knowledge farming techniques into the community to build a sustainable food system.

AL is a young Diné group wanting to expand our knowledge and teaching that were passed down from our elders to the community of Shiprock. We seek to gain supplemental knowledge and learn from others by using the AL farm to create a space for new farmers wanting to learn not only agriculture knowledge but traditional teachings, ceremonies, prayers, and life skills.

There are a few farmers in the community who farm as well but do not have a space for young and new farmers to learn the traditional farming teachings. AL wants to provide that learning space to continue the work of our ancestors.

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Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

Our solution incorporates ancestral technology and practices along with existing agriculture technology. Ancestral technology and practices are rooted in the land and among a few elderly in the community. Their teachings to us have been incorporated among the AL farm and is making progress. The existing agriculture technology is using a tractor, tractor implements to create furrows, cultivate, level, and plowing, hand tools, seed planter, irrigation pipes, and power tools. With these existing technologies creates a sustainable and immense fresh produce every harvest. All core technology is needed to create a lasting food system in the community.

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Provide evidence that this technology works.

In Shiprock, NM we have 3 acres of farming land that has been widely used for many decades. The use of agricultural technology has been incorporated among the land for two decades. The tractor, tractor implements, hand and power tools, and seed planters have all been used on the field to create a successful harvest. In the Shiprock community, we have seen more advanced technology such as the planter which is a farm implement that is towed behind a tractor to plant seeds in the rows throughout the field. We have also seen a cultivator implement that has stir the soil around the crops to promote growth and to destroy the weeds around the crops. All advanced agricultural technology is needed among the field to create immense fresh produce among the community and Navajo Nation.

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Ancestral Technology & Practices
  • Audiovisual Media
  • Internet of Things
  • Manufacturing Technology
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What is your theory of change?

Purpose: To restore ancestral foodways through farming that supports and sustains Indigenous people in rural communities

Impact: Revitalizing a resilient food system in the Shiprock community

Outcome:

·      Improve food security and access to healthy foods among Diné families

·      Improve agriculture techniques under sustainable and ancestral                      practices

·      Increase consumption of fresh produce and production

·      Increase education on traditional Diné food knowledge

 

Outputs:

Béésh Astogii Be Iiná (Arrowhead Lifeway) is a Diné-led organization, for Indigenous people. Our solution is rooted in ancestral knowledge and strength that has existed longer than health disparities that implements both ancestral knowledge and modern technology.

Arrowhead Lifeway is developed to incorporate ancestral knowledge and modern technology to promote food security and self-sufficiency to revitalize and maintain Diné cultural food connections. The community growers will funnel and instill health and wellness as a value influenced by their crops that has grown to produce fresh and healthy foods. This also incorporates physical activity of working their fields which connects them spiritually and mentally to their land and food. Further, growing their own food allows them to identify their identity, culture and family that is rooted from traditional stories and cultural teaching of the land and farming. By working and experience farming together as an individual, family, and community promotes and builds unity in the community.

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Select the key characteristics of your target population.

  • Women & Girls
  • Children & Adolescents
  • Elderly
  • Rural
  • Low-Income
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Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 2. Zero Hunger
  • 3. Good Health and Well-Being
  • 6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 13. Climate Action
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In which state(s) do you currently operate?

  • New Mexico
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In which state(s) will you be operating within the next year?

  • New Mexico
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How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?

Currently, we are supporting 4 farmers in Shiprock, NM including Arrowhead Lifeway farm. Overall, this is about 10 acres we are supporting. We have estimated that per acre will feed about 20 families. In one year, is to support and serve 10 farmers with 50 more acres to feed about 1,000 families.  In five years, is to serve and support at least 25 farmers in the Shiprock farming community and provide over 2,500 families with fresh produce in the community. Depending, how many acres each farmer has we will multiply that by 20 families to equal the amount of fresh produce to feed families.  

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What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?

Short-term goal:

To build stronger relationships with farmers in the Shiprock community to increase the number of farmers to serve in the area. This relationship with the farmers will create a trusting bond and respect among others. It will ultimately provide a interconnectedness with the land know that the people have trusting relationship that land will flourish with fresh produce due to the good relationships among all life.

Long-term goal:

To develop a sustainable food hub in Shiprock, that will serve the Navajo Nation. The local farmers in Shiprock will boost the Navajo Nation food economy and create employment. This goal will also rebuild a self-sufficient food system for the Navajo Nation that will hold knowledge which cannot be learned from mainstream society. This food hub is by the Diné people for the Indigenous people.

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What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?

The barriers Arrowhead life currently face is funding and workspace. Arrowhead Life has used personal income to purchase and replace farming equipment or paid other farmers to use their tractors. In order to operate our solution, allocating and applying to funding is needed. To fully operate AL, we need office workspace for the team and space for our weekly meetings. While it is hard to find workspace in Shiprock, we make it work by using the AL farm to educate new farmers.

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How do you plan to overcome these barriers?

In order to overcome funding and workspace barriers, we are applying and looking into USDA grants and created a gofundme account to support our initiatives. With the support of many grant opportunities such as the 2020 Indigenous Communities Fellowship MIT Solve grant, we are able to support our pilot by purchasing farming equipment and launching our pilot service in one community. As for the workspace, we have been utilizing every available office space or conference space in Shiprock or coffee shops in Farmington, NM. We have been advocating to use office space in local plazas in Shiprock with a reduced price but office space in Shiprock has been high due to COVID-19 or shut down.

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About Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Other, including part of a larger organization (please explain below)
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If you selected Other, please explain here.

Our organization, Béésh Asto’gii Be Iiná (Arrowhead Lifeway), is a Diné-led organization, for Indigenous people. Our fiscal sponsors are Diné Introspective and Northwest New Mexico First Born. We also work closely with both non-profits to increase ancestral knowledge through farming techniques and technology. 

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How many people work on your solution team?

Currently, we have four full-time staff and five part-time staff. We also have volunteer opportunities for the community to participate in the farming activities. 

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How many years have you worked on your solution?

4

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Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Breanna Lameman, the team lead, has prior experience and numerous volunteer hours with the Navajo Nation in past six years, in conjunction, with her Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health. She is also an Indigenous researcher for the Navajo Healthy Stomach Project. She provides social media, data analyzing, public speaking, conducting culturally appropriate Indigenous methodologies, build awareness and develop strategies that will leverage equitable and sustainable programs in tribal communities.

Our team is a local Diné organization strategically residing in Shiprock, NM to restore ancestral foodways through farming that supports and sustains Indigenous people in rural communities. We are either 3 or 4 generation farmers equipped to deliver farming techniques to the community. We are from the farming community and want to provide others with the ancestral knowledge, teachings, and practice while implementing new farming technology.

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What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?

Diné Introspective Inc. promotes mental, physical, spiritual wellbeing, and environmental issues surrounding our local communities to increase intellectual health awareness between self-reliance and living a healthy lifestyle (Yå’åtéehgo jiinå). They created the Enchant the Environment to have individuals experience the physical and spiritual connection between self and organic plants and to demonstration the construction of green houses, gardens, and farms to practice agriculture.

Northwest New Mexico First Born Program was founded on the belief that supported families create healthy communities, focuses on strong relationships and health in the early years. They also increase the health and wellness of women pregnant for the first time, families parenting for the first time, and families adopting their first baby.

Shiprock Area Food Access Coalition is ccommunity stakeholders working together to improve access to healthy food and water that will build sustainable food systems change and improve generational health outcomes for Native American communities.

Ben Farms located in Shiprock, NM continues a long legacy of agricultural practice in the Colorado Plateau. Original Ben Family Farms were dry farms located 18 miles southwest of Shiprock, New Mexico near Beautiful Mountain near Sanostee, NM. They have a shop for dried steam corn (Neshjhizhii) that is available now on our online store.

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Your Business Model & Partnerships

What is your path to financial sustainability?

Our path to financial sustainability is by selling AL fresh produce to the community and local farmers market every harvest season. Further, we are applying and looking into grant opportunities to fund Arrowhead Life. We also have our gofundme account to reach our goal to sustain farmers and families. We have a few resources of funding available to us but it the matter of applying and networking. In the long term, we hope to expand our land acreage and increase our crop production in the future.

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What are your estimated expenses for 2020?

Hand tools $500 + Power tools $1000 + Water Pipes $3000 + Farming maintenance $2000 + Water Containers $1000 + Farming Implements $ 2,500 = $10,000

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Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
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Why are you applying to Solve?

We are applying to Solve because we have seen Solve among the Navajo Nation and assist with our Diné relatives. As a local Diné-led organization we want to continue to expand our networking and find mentors who are able to guide us in the right direction of funding and resources. We are applying as well because we know are solution will improve food security and the health and wellbeing of our people. Our Diné relatives are eager to learn especially traditional knowledge, teachings, and practices. Further, we are passionate about the land, water, plants, and animals. We want to continue taking care of the land as it has been taking care of us. Lastly, we are committed to our efforts that we have been doing for a few years now.

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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Business model
  • Product/service distribution
  • Funding and revenue model
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Please explain in more detail here.

As Diné we value K’é (family) and that includes partnerships with our relatives who are willing to support and connect us with other Indigenous communities to build a true food sovereignty nation. Our organization needs members around the Navajo Nation to provide a sustainable food hub for future generations.  

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What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?

We would love to partner with MIT. There is opportunity for growth and networking with the organization that we could teach them, and they could teach us. With your help, you can support our program, families, and future farmers.  

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Solution Team

  • BL BL
    Breanna Lameman Chair Board & Diné Researcher, Diné Introspective
 
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