Desert Agriculture in the Navajo Nation

As of April 1, 2015, the Navajo Nation Council instituted an extra 2-cent sales tax on junk food and sugary drinks within the borders of its sovereign territory, the largest reservation in the U.S., which extends across parts of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico.  The tax, put in place as the Healthy DinĂ© Nation Act, is intended to discourage consumption of foods without nutritional value and in turn make healthy foods like whole fruits and vegetables more affordable.  The Council plans to spend the revenue raised from the new tax on health and wellness programs.


The Navajo Nation meets the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) definition of a food desert, an area in which a combination of factors leaves many residents with low or no access to supermarkets or grocery stores.  Most of the Nation’s territory is also a literal desert, with climate conditions that make growing food locally difficult.  Initiatives by the DinĂ© Community Advocacy Alliance and other Navajo groups to increase home and community gardening activity could boost their effectiveness by incorporating technologies designed for growing in harsh environments. 


The Global Innovation Commons (GIC) has compiled sets of public domain patents related to aspects of Agriculture including Biodigesters, Fertilizer, Drought Resistant Technology, Irrigation, and Soil Management which can aid growing efforts in arid climates.  All of the patents in these GIC sets are public domain and free for anyone to use in the United States and within the sovereign territory of federally-recognized Nations.  The precise extent of U.S. patent protections to sovereign Nations is not entirely clear.  Several federal court cases have decided that Nations enjoy sovereign immunity from private patent infringement suits; however, all patents in our GIC sets carry no risk of infringement litigation, regardless of what type of party owns them.


Visit the GIC site to see all of the technology categories for Agriculture sorted by country and discover what technologies are public domain in your area of interest.



Agricultural Marketing Service. “Food Deserts.” United States Department of Agriculture.

Barclay, Eliza. “Navajos Fight Their Food Desert With Junk Food And Soda Taxes.” The Salt. NPR. 1 April 2015. Web.

Sobaje, Justin. “Native American Tribes Immune From Patent Infringement Suits.”18 December 2013. IP Litigation Current. Web.

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