On the Tohono O’odham Nation, young people are leading work in school gardens, health and wellness initiatives, cultural revitalization, and more. Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA) places youth at the core of all programming with great emphasis on building partnerships between youth, adults and elders.  

Project Oidak, created in 2011, grew from the demands of young people. It is a community garden project (oikak in the O’odham language means garden) that promotes leadership, healthy foods, gardening and culture.

  • Empowers O’odham youth to learn from elders traditional farming methods
  • Shares and creates community spaces for learning to garden/farm
  • Influences positive change to food systems
  • Encourages fun and a s-wa:gima (industrious) lifestyle!

TOCA is the lead organization for the Youth Leadership Initiative. Fifty-four percent of TOCA’s staff are under the age of 25, which reflects the community’s demographics. As described on its blog, “when young people know they have the freedom and resources to make their vision of a healthy community a reality, a stronger relationship is built that allows for adults and elders to share their own perspectives, knowledge and wisdom.” Genuine partnerships create space for young people to utilize their natural strengths, such as high levels of energy and enthusiasm for making change, creativity and imagination.

An intensive summer youth internship program teaches youth to garden and farm. Through school wellness initiatives, students work in school gardens, learn about traditional foods, health and wellness and also eat local foods, such as tepary beans, for lunch.