Water Resources Research Center - University of Arizona
What is the name of your solution?
Provide a one-line summary of your solution.
Building a bridge of understanding and communication between tribes, cities and the State of Arizona on irrigation policy.
What specific problem are you solving?
The specific problem we are addressing is the lack of proper communication and resources for all Arizona farmers, but specifically Native American farmers. Agriculture in Arizona is one of the leading contributors to the state’s economy. Arizona has the largest concentration of Native farms anywhere in the US, with almost half of the farmers and ranchers being Native American (Allen, 2020). Despite the huge contribution Native American farmers add to the State’s agriculture industry, Native farmers are seldom addressed when making agriculture policies, especially when relating to irrigation waters. Recently, in an Arizona water council meeting, tensions grew about unresolved tribal water claims among the tribal leaders in Arizona. Following the council meeting, there was many misconceptions from all sides about agriculture water and policy.
While there is a long-standing history of friction between tribal governments and non-tribal governments, our solution is not about solving animosity between the two, rather on providing needed information to the people these policies are affecting, the farmers. Many times, both Native and Non-Native farmers do not realize there are many resources for them to help through these trying drought times. While farmers are generally self-sufficient and have since become their own veterinarians, soil scientist, bookkeeper, agronomist, water quality specialist, they should not have to add policy and science communicator, which is why our solution will help solve troubles.
What is your solution?
Our solution is to develop a program starting with a multimedia website. Our program is called IRRIGaTe, Irrigation Resources Reaching Indigenous Growers and Tribal entities. Many times, what is missing in communication is understanding. Hearing what one says verses understanding is two different concepts, and we aim at providing understanding. Using the Universal Design Learning, we plan on taking policies and making it easier to comprehend though flow-charts, diagrams, videos, podcasts, interviews and imagery. The three steps listed below explain our solution.
- Provide means of representation – As Native American farmers and ranchers represent over half Arizona’s industry, there is no representation. Working on showing Native representation through images and diagrams will aid in developing relationships and communicating with tribes. In addition, we will be working on our wording, text and even translations into some of tribes’ languages. We want to make sure that our material would be appropriate for all comprehensions, in many different formats.
- Provide means of action & expression – Video and short clips on how to do some of the policies, such as water quality monitoring, would be the next step in our solution. Sometimes working in rural areas, it can be hard to understand how/why water quality monitoring is important and these videos will be a resource for farmers.
- Provide means of engagement – In person classes and trainings would be ideal in our final step. We want to take what the community is asking of us and tailor it to their specific needs. For example, sometimes dry-land farming can be easier to comprehend when actively out in the field understanding how the roots adapt to only getting watered 2-3 times a season.
The solution will be done once we establish a multimedia website, rather we are building trust, communication and understanding to ultimately help our goal of providing Arizona farmers with easy-to-use irrigation resources.
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? In what ways will your solution benefit this community?
Our program is directed towards the 22 federally recognized tribes in Arizona, but also rural and small farmers regardless of their ethnicity.
How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
The Water Resources Research Center at the University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA is suited to address this problem because of the long-established contacts with many water policy officials. Additionally, the University of Arizona has established itself as a premiere tier one university with the commitment to respect Indigenous tribes, “We respectfully acknowledge the University of Arizona is on the land and territories of Indigenous peoples. Today, Arizona is home to 22 federally recognized tribes, with Tucson being home to the O'odham and the Yaqui. Committed to diversity and inclusion, the University strives to build sustainable relationships with sovereign Native Nations and Indigenous communities through education offerings, partnerships, and community service.”
The reason I am leading, and I feel that I am the right person for this solution is I, myself am from the Navajo Nation. I come from a long line of farmers who struggled finding the right resources and understanding of policy that ultimately ended by my parents selling the farm. I understand the day-to-day struggle of farming, and I strive to make things easier on the agriculture sector. In addition, I have worked with Arizona tribes in the past on developing culturally significant food safety practices which was well received. While I am in Southern Arizona, I am used to travel and through on-line meetings, communicating and discussing problems with tribes has become easier. The thought for this solution came from the farmers, at the recent Southwest Indian Agriculture Association, Inc. annual meeting, many of the farmers were saying that they wished they had a small booklet or better information on the policies. While I am expanding on that idea, I tend to acknowledge and consider all suggestions, ideas and thoughts made by the community.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Tucson, AZ, USA
Our solution's stage of development:Concept
How many people does your solution currently serve?
Why are you applying to Solve?
We believe we have a simple but effective idea that could help thousands of farmers. In addition we think we think SOLVE would help us because we want to have an established plan before making long term solutions.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Who is the Team Lead for your solution?
Dr. Valerisa Joe-Gaddy
Please indicate the tribal affiliation of your Team Lead.
Is the Team Lead a resident of the United States?
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?
Drive positive outcomes for Native learners of any or all ages while supporting culturally grounded educational opportunities on and/or off reservations.
What makes your solution innovative?
Not only is our answer simple, it is also inclusive. At the moment we are incorporating culturally significant and understanding as possible with delicate information such as water policy. I believe that this website will help many underserved populations, but will open doors and allow other states and tribal entities across the US to adopt some of the practices we have planned for making science and policy communication more effective.
What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?
Year 1: Year 1 is really our phase I and we are hoping that we finish all the graphs and charts and information that we want to make sure is easy to understand and culturally appropriate. Also we have been talking one-on-one with the farmers and getting input from their needs as well.
Year 2-3: Phase II will allow us to continue expanding our brand, but also incorporate things like videos, such as youtube tutorials. In addition we would like to start doing interviews with essential stakeholders, to get important information fast but also to start building some of the bridges between government and tribes.
Year 4-5: Phase III we want to possibly take our program and expand it to New Mexico and Utah. We would really like to be the premiere center of indigenous agriculture in the country and we believe our program can help make that possible.
How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?
We are measuring our goals by how many are interested in the subject. Since we do not have anything tangible at the moment we are really doing qualitative measurements.
In a year's time we want to look at the reviews and how many people viewed or searched for our website.
Overtime, we want to make sure that we are partners on all major agriculture policy in Arizona.
What is your theory of change?
Change is hard. While our solution seems simple, the fact is the Native Americans hardly get a say in any government policy. What is even more concerning is that in Arizona almost 75% of all farmers and ranchers identify at Native American and not one person on the Arizona Farm Board and USDA agriculture board is Native American. While people state that is because of educational experience, etc. we are removing that as a factor and providing well thought out learning for everyone who feels like they need to know more about irrigation water.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
Our many technology is the internet. While there is so much information online, what is hard is identifying the "correct" vs "fake" news/media. Our website will be the place to go for easy to read, correct information and culturally inclusive content that you know you can rely on.
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?
A new application of an existing technology
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
In which states do you currently operate?
In which states will you be operating within the next year?
What type of organization is your solution team?
Other, including part of a larger organization (please explain below)
If you selected Other, please explain here.
The Water Resources Research Center is part of the University of Arizona, under the cooperative extension. As a land-grant tier one university we strive to address agriculture needs in Arizona.
How many people work on your solution team?
1 one full time and 2 students
How long have you been working on your solution?
Are solution is in the concept stage and we have been working on this for about 3 months. The idea for this program was since 2018.
What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?
The program that I have developed is gear specifically for Native American and underserved small farmer operations. Part of the University of Arizona's mission and something at the Water Resources Research Center that we firmly believe in is:
We respectfully acknowledge the University of Arizona is on the land and territories of Indigenous peoples. Today, Arizona is home to 22 federally recognized tribes, with Tucson being home to the O'odham and the Yaqui. Committed to diversity and inclusion, the University strives to build sustainable relationships with sovereign Native Nations and Indigenous communities through education offerings, partnerships, and community service.
In addition, the student working on this programs and myself are Native American and not only are we trying to be inclusive of Natives, our program would help any small operation farmers.
What is your business model?
Key Partners: Our partners will be the amazing faculty and relationships the University of Arizona with local and state government. In addition our
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?
In addition to applying to this funding source we have been looking for other funding sources and non-profits who would be interested in supporting Native and small farm operation farmers. All of our revenue would come from grant money since we are an educational institution aiming to support education.
Dr. Valerisa Gaddy Post Doctoral Research Associate, University of Arizona