Acequia culture models restorative solutions

posted in: Policy, Regenerative Ag, Water | 1

By Serafina Lombardi, who farms in Chimayo and is Program Director at the New Mexico Acequia Association.
The New Mexico Acequia Association is committed to addressing climate disruption and the challenges they bring to our communities.


Photo credit: Isabelle Jenniches CC BY-NC

In New Mexico, we all know that Agua es vida. Acequia farmers know this especially well.

Our communities hold knowledge of how to observe and work with changes.

We live the effects of drought and flood –on the land, our livelihoods, and food security. We watch the snowpack in the mountains build and melt. We see the impact of a burn scar on our watersheds, and how hotter air affects our plants. Our communities hold knowledge of how to observe and work with changes. We are on the frontlines of seeing cycles disrupted – but as part of a legacy of adaptation, sovereignty and perseverance, we have not forgotten how to care for the land and we will continue to pass on this tradition. We have accumulated generations of experience and made traditions to share in shortage and plenty.

While agriculture globally is a driver of climate change, we have the opportunity to change this! Many powerful opportunities exist within agriculture to address the climate crisis. By building soil health we can sequester carbon in the soil, protect our watersheds and protect clean water.

As traditional farmers we have the tools to make agriculture one of our most restorative solutions to the climate crisis.

As traditional farmers we have the tools to make agriculture one of our most restorative solutions to the climate crisis. Agriculture can be part of the solution, but especially acequias: We have adapted to change across continents, cultures and climates. We are a model of how to survive and thrive. We offer:

  • Local governance and hyper local solutions;
  • Connection to culture, tradition and the land that keeps our communities vibrant and hopeful;
  • Aquifer recharge;
  • Habitat for native flora and fauna, and traditional medicines, our remedios;
  • Food and seed sovereignty along with economic opportunities.

Acequias are ribbons of green in a semi-arid landscape. Our creative solution is KEEP FARMING! Keep traditional farmers on their lands and support young people to farm in our traditional methods, the original organic way. With local natural inputs and minimal access to equipment we practice de facto low till.



For our land based way of life to persist we need support to continue implementing and improving these strategies.

Many traditional soil health strategies are now recognized to increase carbon sequestration, which is great news for the planet. Better soil health also helps us stabilize the impacts of flood and droughts which increases our food security and farmers’ viability. But for our land based way of life to persist we need support to continue implementing and improving these strategies.

The Healthy Soil Working Group and the coalition they built to pass the Healthy Soil Act is creating state policy and incentives to assist in these urgent efforts. The Healthy Soil Program funds vital soil and water conservation measures helping farmers be the best stewards we can.

New Mexico farmers are on the front lines of climate change. We are reading the signs and seeing its effects on the ground. It is changing our lives and the way we farm. The impacts of droughts, fires and flooding are real, we are vulnerable – but we are strong. We weather, we find a way, we are the way – and we know that supporting farmers to increase our carbon sequestration, growing our local food systems, buying local and honoring our traditional knowledge will take us a long way in our urgent efforts for ecological and cultural healing.

Our watersheds are sacred. At the New Mexico Acequia Association we are building a movement of acequia parciantes committed to the values of repartimento – sharing and bravely finding our way through these changing times.


Photo credit: NMAA

  1. Sylvia Ernestina Vergara

    Dearest Farmers,
    I really appreciate what is said in this article. Not only do I believe in farming with acequias, I believe that acequias can be created in places where there are none and can truly enhance the experience of community interactive communication and farming with love and care for the land. As a parciante of the Acequia del Medio, I have felt that this approach and method to be more humane, loving and ingratiating towards a respectful approach toward farming the land. I am optimistic and appreciate the approach that seeks to enhance a continued visionary approach that has worked well for centuries and can help lead us into the future with pride as responsible farmers that truly loved the farms they have learned from and nurtured.
    Sylvia Ernestina Vergara

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