Tolani Lake Enterprises COVID relief initiative hits the ground on western Navajo Nation
Tolani Lake Enterprises
An innovative partnership between the Navajo Nation and non-profit organization Tolani Lake Enterprises (TLE) is using CARES funding to deliver water and food to Dine families in urgent need.
As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) funding to the Navajo Nation, a $3.46 million grant was awarded to Tolani Lake Enterprises through the Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources CARES budget. The use of the experienced Tolani Lake Enterprises organization to expand the capacity of Navajo Nation Water Resources allows rapid mobilization to develop wells, watering points, water catchment and delivery strategies to bring needed water to families without ready access to water for their homes, farms and livestock. The project also supports a hoophouse initiative that is building greenhouses across the region growing food to share with families in need.
Tolani Lake Enterprises is a community-based Diné (Navajo) non-governmental organization based in Tolani Lake, Navajo Nation, Arizona, that provides food and water security coordination and technical support to Dine community farm and ranch projects in the western region of the Navajo Nation. Even before the COVID virus, these areas have been a ‘water and food desert’ – without sufficient supplies of good quality water and food available to Diné families. These conditions are aggravated by long-term chronic unemployment and poverty. Building food and water security also benefits local economies by creating and supporting community-based food and water enterprises. The Diné have been hit hard and tragically by the COVID pandemic. Thousands of families are without running water at home, and must haul water from windmills and other sources to provide for domestic drinking water, and for livestock, gardens and wildlife. Tolani Lake Enterprises COVID relief and recovery efforts focus on family- and community-based water and food initiatives, to provide immediate relief from critical shortages of water and food, and to strengthen longer term recovery of water and food security.
“A project of this geographic and logistical complexity would normally take about a year to plan and implement, but due to the urgent need and end-of-year CARES Act deadline, most of the work is being accomplished in about 2 months,” according to Stephanie Hall, Tolani Lake Enterprises Executive Director. In addition to relying on their small organization, Tolani Lake Enterprises is reaching out to contractors and partners they’ve successfully worked with on past projects. The Tolani Lake Enterprises-CARES organization has grown to 7 teams and more than 50 members, focusing on tasks including: community coordination with Leupp, Tolani Lake, Cameron and Coal Mine Canyon Chapters, well-site development and hoop house/greenhouse construction to assure an expanded growing season. Crews are working 7 days a week, dawn to dusk, to get essential work done by the end of December.
Tolani Lake Enterprises reached out to a diverse contingent of professionals to accomplish the project, from one of the only available well drilling companies in the Southwest to local construction crews to a local Native-owned local engineering firm to meet the accelerated timeline.
The project includes:
- Drilling wells at 7 sites total; 6 along the Little Colorado River between Leupp and Cameron, and a site near Coal Mine Canyon; working with communities on permits and clearances; providing each site with a power supply, water storage tank and water delivery system.
- Installation of tanks providing storage totaling 150,000 gallons of water for irrigation, livestock and wildlife use.
- Approximately 1.5 miles of pipeline to connect the various wells with the tanks and the distribution system.
- Constructing rooftop water catchment systems at remote homesites. To date, approximately 30 systems have been built with water purification systems to be added to existing catchments.
- Assembling 6 new hoop houses to expand capacity to grow food over a longer growing season at Ganado, Dilkon, Beaver Farms (2), Teesto, and Chi’shie Farm near Leupp; and producing nutritious food that is being shared with families in need.
All while maintaining COVID safety precautions.
To contribute to this and other Tolani Lake Enterprises projects, see https://www.tolanilake.org/home