Strengthening Sustainable Agriculture Programming with Native American Producers in the West
This Western Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) professional development program proposal addresses the educational needs of agricultural professionals working with Indian Tribes or Native American producers. While almost every reservation works with a USDA agency and agriculture professional, most programs are not specifically designed for Native American agriculture producers or Indian Tribes. If is extremely important for agriculture professionals to understand the “Indian situation” in order to assist in facilitating the enhancement of environmental quality and natural resources to satisfy a quality of life founded by human food and fiber needs.
A focus group in Nevada organized by the Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP) in September 2003 asked agriculture professionals and Tribal representatives to identify problems with getting government programs on the ground on Indian reservations. One of the problems listed by agriculture professionals as that “We don’t understand the Indian situation. Each reservation is different.”
The educational importance of this professional development program is to address the knowledge gap that currently exists and prohibits agriculture professionals from working as effectively as possible on Indian lands. Intended outcomes and program objectives include:
1) Increased agriculture professionals’ knowledge and appreciation of the social, political, and economic environments on Indian reservations relevant to developing sustainable agriculture educational programs on Indian lands;
2) Strengthened and increased sustainable agriculture programming and practices with Native American producers in the four selected states; and
3) Increased participation of tribal or Native American agriculture producers in sustainable agriculture practices.
Research methods which were completed in 2006 included focus group interviews conducted on participating reservations in 4 states; mirror surveys of Native American producers and agriculture professionals working on reservations and; face-to-face interviews with targeted Native American producers and agriculture professionals. These combined methodologies were selected in order to compare indicators of perceived quality of life on Indian reservations. Specifically, survey questions enabled comparison and contrast of attitudes towards adoption of sustainable agriculture practices on reservations.
Analysis of secondary data was also conducted concerning the historical policies that led to the creation and existence of Indian reservations as well as current social attitudes towards reservations. An examination of primary and secondary data will identify key elements of successful and unsuccessful sustainable agriculture programs on Indian reservations in the four selected states.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The research results provide the basis for development of an educational curriculum specifically for agriculture professionals to strengthen their capacity to work more effectively with Native American producers on Indian reservations. This curriculum identifies successful strategies that increase the rate of adoption of sustainable practices on reservation lands. A primary component of this curriculum teaches agriculture professionals to better acknowledge and understand the role that the local political structure plays within Indian tribes.
The resulting educational product created in 2007 is a self-paced curriculum. Program impact measures are designed as pre-tests and post-tests within the curriculum to facilitate impact measurement and reports.
Intertribal Agriculture Council
Natural Resources Conservation Service