National Drought Mitigation Center


NDMC, New Mexico pueblos, USDA NRCS and Southwest Climate Hub team up for Drought-Smart Indigenous Agriculture

May 9, 2022

Irrigation efficiency improvements at the Santa Ana Pueblo. The Pueblo is the host to the new Drought-Smart Indigenous Agriculture project. NDMC photo

A new partnership led by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln focuses on enhancing agricultural drought and climate adaptation for Indigenous farmers and ranchers in the Middle Rio Grande pueblos of the U.S. Southwest.

The Santa Ana Pueblo in New Mexico will host the project and provide opportunities for partners to better understand the traditional knowledge and practices of Indigenous farmers and ranchers as well as their needs in adapting to drought.  Other key partners include the Southwestern Polytechnic Institute who will co-develop a student training and internship program with the NDMC, and the Intertribal Agriculture Council, providing technical expertise on conservation planning The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southwest Climate Hub will advise the project, with a goal of helping to  close gaps between the needs of indigenous farmers and the federal agencies that assist all U.S. farmers.

“Indigenous farmers and ranchers in the U.S. Southwest face increasing climate stresses such as longer, more intense droughts, rising temperatures, and shifting growing seasons,” said Tonya Haigh, NDMC social science coordinator, who is leading the project. “Pueblos, Tribes, and individual farmers and ranchers are challenged with building capacity to undertake soil health, grazing, and food security projects to increase resilience and implement climate-smart agricultural systems.”

The two-year project, funded through the NRCS “Conservation Outreach: Equity through cooperative agreement” opportunity, will run through spring of 2024. The project will include interviews with farmers, ranchers, agricultural enterprises, and natural resource professionals in the Middle Rio Grande Basin Pueblo area, opportunities for student interns from the pueblos to learn about drought, agriculture and conservation, and training on drought planning, monitoring, and adaptation as well as writing conservation plans and applying for funding.

Key objectives are to:

  • learn about past drought response and adaptation from the standpoint of traditional knowledge.
  • assess the drought and conservation planning capacity needs of the pueblos.
  • co-design and implement culturally appropriate drought and climate planning technical capacity.
  • engage the next generation of farmers, ranchers and natural resource managers through remote internships.
  • summarize the project and gather and share feedback on it, for potential broader application. use by others.

The drought center works with drought planners across the country and around the world, from individual ranchers to communities, Tribes, states and nations, to reduce vulnerability to drought.

Check the project page for updates.

-- NDMC Communications