Indigenous Communities Fellowship

Food and Water Warriors: Indigenizing Diné Entrepreneurship

Creating a generation of tech-savvy indigenous food and water entrepreneurs

Team Lead

Burrell Jones

The Problem

Navajo families are experiencing high rates of poverty. The median family income on the reservation is less than $31,000 per year, with 43 percent of families living below the poverty line. 42 percent are unemployed and over one-third of tribally enrolled members live off the reservation, seeking outside economic opportunities. Young people 20-29 are the largest age group living off the reservation. Many express interest in returning home or staying home on the reservation to learn and reconnect with their culture, but currently have little opportunity to do so.

Solution Summary

Tolani Lake Enterprises (TLE) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen food, water, and economic security. TLE provides workshops and technical assistance centered around regenerative agriculture and soil health.

Market Opportunity

  • Provided that 80 cents of every dollar from the Navajo Nation are spent outside the reservation at non-Native businesses, it is critical to find innovative ways to keep the majority of Navajo-earned currency circulating within Navajo communities.
  • By promoting traditional and modern agricultural practices and information using social media, TLE is able to reach over 3,800 Navajo members in the Tolani Lake, Leupp, Birdsprings, and Cameron communities annually. With the continued expansion of social media, they have the potential to reach the total population of over 300,000 Navajo members.

Statistic

  • 75 percent of the 45,000 acres on Navajo Nation developed for surface-irrigated farms are idle due to flooding and sedimentation.

Highlights

  • TLE and its partners are building food entrepreneurs and enterprises on the Navajo Nation.
  • TLE is helping to incorporate the Diné Regenerative Agricultural Cooperative, which will test launch Navajo Lamb products this year.
  • TLE recently received a 21st Diné Studies Conference 2018 Community Service & Leadership award.

Organization Goals

  • Incorporate a 501(c)3 nonprofit in Cameron, AZ, called the Cameron Farm Enterprise, which will establish a nearly 5,000-acre site, including a 120-acre model farm, irrigated pasture, and wildlife conservation area
  • Plan and incorporate the Tolani Lake Enterprises Sihasin Garden Store as a low-profit limited liability company (L3C)
  • Expand the Sihasin Garden venture to include an operational coffee and deli counter, physical retail space, and online presence

Existing Partnerships

  • Indian Dispute Resolution Services, Diné College Land Grant Office, DINEHozho L3C, Spirit Farms, North Leupp Family Farm, Beaver Farm, and Cameron Agricultural Ad-Hoc group to plan, develop, and implement food and water projects that are culturally competent and enterprising in nature
  • Independent Platform (USDA proposal on culturally aware entrepreneurial education) to include a cohort of Native food and water entrepreneurs

Partnership Goals

  • Network expansion
  • Strategies to diversify revenue
  • Connections with other Indigenous communities

Fellow Team

Headquarters: 

Tolani Lake, AZ, USA

Project Stage: 

Prototype

Working in: 

Navajo Nation, USA

Team Members: 

5

Solution Team:

Back
to Top