DSCN1566In recent years, the New Mexico Acequia Association established the Escuelita de las Acequias which is our service learning and leadership development program. We have worked closely with adults and youth from various acequia communities throughout the state. The NMAA hosts encuentros, or gatherings, which are intended to support the followind: 1) enable community leaders to build relationships around shared values and work 2) to share the concept of community education and organizing through the Escuelita de las Acequias, and 3) to generate and share ideas, strategies and work plans for tareas or community service projects. Each of these components has one thing in mind: to creatively address challenges in local communities involving the acequias, including overall community well-being, cultural expression and the growing of food. An additional goal of the Escuelita de las Acequias is to provide specific training to community leaders especially in the areas of policy, organizing and media/storytelling.

In addition to the encuentros, another key component of the Escuelita is the tareas, or community service projects, that the participants work on. The tareas are varied in nature, but all revolve around the importance of acequias and the traditional way of life. Some of the participants have focused on the governance of their acequia: updating bylaws, informing new parciantes about the needs of the acequia, updating members and dues, and many other facets that help keep the acequia running smoothly. Others have worked with youth to pass on traditional knowledge either through home and community gardens, or through development of curriculum and lessons ranging from elementary all the way through the university level. We encourage documentation of the tareas so that participants can share the messages of their work with a broader audience.

We believe that it is critical for us, as land-based people, to be a part of and lead the movement towards not only keeping our acequia traditions intact but working towards a brighter vision of healthy families, healthy watersheds, healthy rivers and acequias, healthy communities and healthy lives. At the core of the Escuelita de las Acequias is the importance of recognizing and honoring the wisdom, knowledge and capacity that is inherent within our communities. The struggles we face as acequieros and stewards of the land and water give us a unique perspective and capacity to address the issues from inside the problem.

If you would like more information about this program, email Pilar Trujillo at pilar@lasacequias.org