ZUNI, NM (Aug. 2, 2021) — Rain harvesting is a critical component of the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project’s food sovereignty initiative during the 2021 growing season, and the program is already yielding significant results. As July draws to a close, Zuni families have already conserved many hundreds of gallons of water, and they also are saving money through a partnership with the Zuni Utility Department.
With support from the New Mexico Department of Health, the Native American Agriculture Fund, and a Health Impact Project grant, the nonprofit youth organization designed its rain harvest initiative to benefit agriculture, which lies at the heart of traditional Zuni culture, and also to protect a valued resource during a time of persistent drought. Staff members discovered that local families were eager to participate.
“One hundred families registered for gardening and rain harvest this year,” said Jessica Quinlan, ZYEP’s food sovereignty coordinator. “We distributed 88 barrels for rainwater collection, and 12 families requested gutter kits.”
Continuous Rain Gutter Systems & Show Low Garage Doors LLC partnered with ZYEP; they delivered barrels to Zuni and taught local families how to install their new gutter systems. Dan Kipp, owner of the family-run business based in Vernon, Arizona, said he and his team were delighted to work with the youth project.
“The most enjoyable part of our business is helping people get started with collecting rainwater,” Kipp said. “It’s so important to eat healthy food, especially from your own garden. Using rainwater on your plants makes good sense, as there is no chlorine or other chemicals.”
The local Zuni Utility Department is partnering with ZYEP to use Health Impact Project funds to further support rain harvest for agriculture purposes, providing 50 barrels for ZUD customers and water bill rebates. This pilot program rewards community member for conserving rainwater and not using municipal water for garden irrigation.
“Water conservation supports agriculture, but it’s also about protecting a community resource,” Quinlan said. “When we collect our own rainwater for gardens and home use, we’re conserving the municipal water that ZUD staff work very hard to provide for household use.”
ZYEP distributed 55-gallon rain barrels for the first time last year, and participating families saved approximately 15,600 gallons of rainwater. Quinlan said this year ZYEP distributed 100-gallon barrels, so hopefully families will be able to harvest and store larger amounts of rain this year.
“Zuni has been blessed with several inches of rain in recent weeks,” she explained. “We’re thankful for the water, and we’re having a lot of fun harvesting it. It’s all about knowledge sharing, sharing photos, and celebrating each other’s accomplishments — we’re going through the growing season together.”
In the weeks to come, ZYEP will host gardening workshops and a series of “Family Cook Nights” to spend time with enrolled families and enjoy the growing season process. The first event is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 12.
In addition to rain harvesting, ZYEP’s full Food Sovereignty initiative also incorporates garden kits — complete with seeds and tools — and a collaborative Agriculture Support Team.
To learn more about the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project and its programs, and for information about making donations, partnering with ZYEP, and volunteering, call (505) 782-8000 or visit zyep.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest news and events, follow the nonprofit youth organization on Facebook (/zuniyouthenrichmentproject), Instagram (@zuniyouthenrichmentproject), and YouTube (/ZuniYouth).
Founded in 2009, the nonprofit Zuni Youth Enrichment Project is dedicated to promoting resilience among Zuni youth so they will grow into strong, healthy adults who are connected with Zuni traditions. ZYEP fulfills its mission by providing positive role models, enriching programs, and nurturing spaces that contribute to the healthy development of Zuni youth. ZYEP strives to provide every child with the encouragement and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.