The Mexican Water Chapter of the Navajo Nation is hosting three workshops this fall to show residents how to plant permaculture style “food forests.”
The free workshops are open to anyone and will be on Aug. 31, Sept. 28, and Oct. 26 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mexican Water Chapter House, located on N. Highway 191, mile marker 2, north of Mexican Water, Ariz.
Permaculture uses berms and swales to catch rainwater and runoff in order improve food and crop production in dry desert climates.
Instructors include Grant Curry, of the Permaculture Provision Project based in Montezuma County, Navajo organizer Tracy Raymond, and Curtis Yanito, grazing manager for the Mexican Hat Chapter.
“The permaculture technique slows down runoff and traps rainwater to improve soil conditions long term,” Yanito said. “It is a really good, tested system that can benefit gardeners, farmers and ranchers.”
Once the berm and swales are built to capture and hold moisture, fruit trees, berry shrubs, and medicine plants are planted to provide food and shade, and prevent erosion. Trapping the water will also help recharge groundwater and springs.
“Our concern is water, we don’t want it leaving the reservation, so the goal is to capture as much as we can,” says Raymond. “We want to spread the information on this permaculture technique so that eventually we get more vegetation and fruit trees across the reservation.”
Organizers say every time it rains, 100,000 gallons of rainwater flows past the chapter house in Walker Creek and Chinle Wash.
“It goes down the canyon before anyone can use it,” Raymond said.
The first workshop will focus on building the berm and swale at the chapter house. Subsequent workshops will focus on planting food-producing trees and shrubs, and installing drip irrigation.
Residents will learn how to turn their land into water-harvesting landscapes that yield food for generations once the initial work of planting is done. Setting up drip-irrigation systems is needed to keep the food forests watered until they can reach into the underground water reservoir and sustain themselves without irrigation.
“We need to relearn how to work with nature so we can all benefit from it,” Yanito said.
Western Excelsior, of Mancos, has donated aspen-based mulch for the project. DePaul University has donated trees and drip irrigation to get the food gardens established..
For more information call Curtis Yanito at (435) 459-0688, or Grant Curry at (970) 769-1351.