Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Wed, Jan. 27

Tolani Lake Enterprises COVID-19 relief initiative hits the ground on western Navajo Nation

24,000 gallon water tank delivered to Cameron Old Farm. (Photo courtesy of Tolani Lake Enterprises)

24,000 gallon water tank delivered to Cameron Old Farm. (Photo courtesy of Tolani Lake Enterprises)

TOLANI LAKE, Ariz. — 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 innovative partnership between the Navajo Nation and non-profit organization is using CARES funding to deliver water and food to Diné families in urgent need.

Tolani Lake Enterprises is a community-based Diné non-governmental organization based in Tolani Lake, Arizona. The group provides food and water security coordination and technical support to Diné community farm and ranch projects in the western region of the Navajo Nation.

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Hoophouse interior at Beaver Farm, north of Leupp, already planting crops. (Photo courtesy of Tolani Lake Enterprises)

According to TLE, even before the coronavirus impacted reservation communities, most areas on the reservation were a ‘water and food desert’ — without sufficient supplies of good quality water and food available to Diné families.

Additionally, these conditions were aggravated by long-term chronic unemployment and poverty, TLE stated.

“Building food and water security also benefits local economies by creating and supporting community-based food and water enterprises,” TLE stated in a recent release. “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.”

Through their efforts, TLE has been able to expand the capacity of Navajo Nation Water Resources allowing 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.

TLE project have also supported a hoophouse initiative that builds greenhouses across the region growing food to share with families in need.

TLE COVID-19 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 two months, ” said Stephanie Hall, TLE executive director.

In addition to relying on their organization, TLE is reaching out to contractors and partners that they have successfully worked with on past projects.

The TLE-CARES organization has seven teams and more than 50 members, focusing on tasks including community coordination with Leupp, Tolani Lake, Cameron and Coal Mine Canyon Chapters. Projects include well-site development and hoop house/greenhouse construction to assure an expanded growing season.

Crews are currently working seven days a week, dawn to dusk, to get essential work completed by the end of December.

Information provided by Tolani Lake Enterprises

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