National Drought Mitigation Center


NDMC partnership works to enhance drought and climate resilience of Indigenous farmers in the Middle Rio Grande basin

April 18, 2023

In March, the NDMC hosted a workshop with the Middle Rio Grande pueblos and state partners in New Mexico as part of the Climate Smart Indigenous Agriculture Project. The workshop gave participants the opportunity to engage with agency representatives, learn about funding opportunities and soil health programs and brainstorm ideas for on-farm drought and climate resilience projects. (Photo from the NDMC)

Like many western states, New Mexico has benefited from a healthy snowpack this winter, boosting reservoir storage and saturating soils before the scorching heat of the spring and summer. But what if that snowpack melts too fast and leads to widespread flooding? What can farmers do when the irrigation ditches are full, but they’re not yet ready to plant? What can Tribal farmers, in particular, do on smaller plots of land where the available options for boosting water supplies are more limited?

These were just a few of the questions raised in a recent workshop on soil health, drought and climate change co-facilitated by the National Drought Mitigation Center and hosted by the Santa Ana Pueblo. The workshop, held on the Santa Ana Pueblo in New Mexico at the end of March, brought together 20 participants from six different pueblos from across the Middle Rio Grande Basin. It provided an opportunity for Tribal producers and resource managers to engage with state and federal representatives to learn about technical assistance resources, soil health programs and funding opportunities. It was also a chance for agency staff to meet with producers and, together, brainstorm concrete projects for drought and climate resilience on Tribal land in the Southwest.

“The goal of the workshop was really introductory in nature,” said Maddie Goebel, a social scientist at the NDMC and one of the workshop’s organizers. “It was a chance to bring technical service providers, pueblo resource management folks and farmers together in one room, to build a foundation for future outreach.”

The March workshop was the first of a series of outreach programs planned as part of the Climate Smart Indigenous Agriculture Project, a collaborative effort of the NDMC, the Santa Ana Pueblo, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Southwest Climate Hub, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute and the Intertribal Agricultural Council. It’s funded by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Together, the team is working to enhance agricultural drought and climate adaptation in Middle Rio Grande pueblos by better understanding the needs of Indigenous farmers and ranchers and leveraging their traditional knowledge and practices.

To that end, the recent workshop incorporated several educational sessions and field trips with plenty of opportunity for discussion and relationship building. After a presentation on current conditions and climate change trends, led by the New Mexico State Climatologist, Dave DuBois, presenters from the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, the Intertribal Agricultural Council and the NRCS took turns discussing the resources they offer to agricultural producers, from funding for healthy soil projects to grant-writing workshops.

Participants also had an opportunity to collectively brainstorm on-farm projects to increase resilience and work through potential barriers related to funding and monitoring. The next day, attendees got to see adaptation and restoration in action with fieldtrips to the Santa Ana Pueblo’s Bosque Restoration Project and the Candelaria Nature Preserve, managed by the City of Albuquerque.  

“Our goal is to get people thinking about projects they would be interested in doing on their farms and encourage pueblo staff to reach out to farmers to begin brainstorming tangible plans,” said Goebel. “It was interesting to me, and hopefully participants, to see the range of opportunities and services available.”

The workshop was an invaluable opportunity to bring together Tribal and government partners. Participants were able to ask questions about accessing resources and highlight the unique opportunities and challenges on each pueblo. On the flipside, workshop organizers got tangible feedback for future outreach activities and could begin strategizing how to disseminate information from the workshop to a broader audience across the region.

Educational workshops like the Soil Health, Drought and Climate Change Tribal Workshop in March are just one component of the Climate Smart Agriculture project. Since last year, NDMC staff have been conducting interviews with farmers, ranchers, agricultural producers and natural resource managers from across the Middle Rio Grande Basin. Later this year, the team will be working with Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, a Tribal community college in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, to develop an internship program for pueblo students. The Climate Smart Agriculture project will run for two years, through next spring.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. Learn more about the Climate Smart Indigenous Agriculture Project

-- Leah Campbell, NDMC Communications