Building Power Together: Sustainable Forestry and African-American Land Retention Network

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For the third case study in our What’s Working in Rural series, we examine how communities that have been historically and systematically excluded can develop authentic and effective leadership that builds power to challenge the status quo.

Our case study is on the Sustainable Forestry and African-American Land Retention Network (SFLR), a Black-led organization founded in 2012 to keep Black-owned forests forested and within the family.

SFLR is a network of eight anchor organizations deeply grounded in rural Black communities across the South, from Virginia to Texas. These organizations use sustainable forestry as a way for landowners to maintain their deep ties to the land while promoting wealth creation and land retention.

SFLR offers the following tips to other organizations seeking to leading through relationship:

  • Hire community-grounded staff from a variety of backgrounds.
  • Be reliable in building and maintaining trusting relationships.
  • Know that it takes commitment.
  • Developing the leadership necessary to build power takes time.

Download the case study for more details on this practice.

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What's happening? The number of Black-owned farms in Illinois has gone from 892 in 1920 to 188 in 2017, -$100,000 owed in delinquent taxes in Pembroke. Illinois threatened land ownership and economic opportunity. Local food systems are being threatened by corporate monopolies in the food chain. Why is this happening? Historic racism within federal agencies that has excluded Black farmers from loans for decades. Heirs' Property Law preventing Black land ownership. Extractive industries destroying farmland despite opposition. What can we do? Pool resources to preserve and protect farm ownership. Support training on monetizing the economic value of farm land. Let's honor and preserve the history of the largest concentration of Black farmers in the Northern US.
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