Creating resourceful communities

Special Interest

19 March 2021

(c) Nathan Burton / Conservation Fund

The Conservation Fund’s Resourceful Communities Program (RCP) believes conservation goes beyond environmental concerns, and to this end it also works to also achieve economic outcomes that benefit people. RCP creates opportunities that preserve the rural landscape, lift people out of poverty, and celebrate communities’ unique cultures.

While RCP has focused on supporting communities of colour for more than 20 years, including Native American and Latinx communities, its work seems more important than ever, given the current fight for racial justice in the US. RCP works towards economic, social, and environmental justice, helping communities to earn money while also protecting their land. For example, the Coharie Tribe is cleaning up their river and aims to conduct eco-tourism kayaking tours; a group of young people grow and sell produce to local restaurants; and individual landowners are generating revenue from recreational uses and sustainable timber management.

RCP supports a grassroots network of organisations that provide environmental and economic benefits to communities across North Carolina, including more than 100 organisations working on innovative food programming. Many are being called upon to grow, secure, coordinate, and/or distribute much needed fresh produce to meet increasing hunger and food insecurity, while also supporting small-scale farmers, whose markets and contracts are being cancelled or reduced. Some of RCP’s partners that work to respond to the needs

in their communities include: Episcopal Farmworker Ministry, which works to meet emergency needs of farmers; Green Rural Redevelopment Organisation, which delivers meals to seniors; Tarboro Community Outreach, which provides daily meals to people through its homeless shelter; Brunswick Housing Opportunities, which works with Black community churches to deliver food to seniors; Migrant Education of Robeson County, which delivers food to migrant families, especially those without a car; and Wash Away Unemployment, which helps those recently released from prison (due to Covid-19) to find housing.

“We are buying tools and vegetables and using them in any way that we can to enhance the development of farms and the availability of the food,” says Ardis Crews, vice president of the Southern Organic Female Farmers Association.

Since the pandemic reached North Carolina in March 2020, RCP has been in regular contact with its community partners. Organisations that regularly meet the immediate needs of the most vulnerable members of their communities – food pantries, re-entry programmes, and immigrant services – have seen demand for their services increase dramatically. Many of these organisations have developed new methods of service delivery to serve people who are homebound due to age (elders being the most vulnerable), or youth who are now home-schooled.

Overall, RCP has stepped up to support local organisations that help with food assistance, childcare, eldercare, patient care, and more. Its goal has been to provide funding that is easily accessible and rapidly deployed. “RCP has been working in rural communities for over 20 years, so when the multiple crises hit in 2020, it was prepared to respond,” says Millie Brobston, programme officer for Oak’s Special Interest Programme. “RCP works with community leaders to strengthen their work through capacity-building support, networking and the sharing of resources.”

RCP is supported through our Special Interest Programme, which covers a wide range of fields. You can read more about the programme strategy here.

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