Participation of Minorities in Cost-share Programs-The Experience of a Small Underserved Landowners’ Group in Alabama

Colmore S. Christian, Rory F. Fraser, Buddhi Gyawali, Chlesea Scott


This article highlights aspects of the historical, social and policy developments of cost-share programs in the USA. The experiences of African Americans who are members of Limited Resource Landowners Education Network in attempting to access available cost-share resources in Alabama are presented. Literature reviews, participation in and response to the USDA’s Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI), and discussions with stakeholders were the primary sources of information and data used in this exploratory analysis which was conducted within the framework of a “modified action research model”.
Until recently underserved landowners’ participation in cost-share programs in Alabama has been very limited. Although in theory access has been open to underserved landowners, these landowners have historically encountered a range of challenges in trying to participate in the cost-share programs. Many of those challenges, the analysis has indicated, stemmed from: (a) Natural Resource Conservation Service’s (NRCS’) limited pool of available and relevant technical personnel, (b) the agency’s interpretation of existing program policy guidelines and (c) the low level of underserved landowners’ trust and confidence in the transparency and fairness of federal and state agencies and their officials.
Successfully navigating such obstacles and challenges during the implementation of the CCPI initiative in Alabama necessitated much understanding, perseverance, collaboration, and a willingness to compromise by all project stakeholders. Strategies likely to assist other similar groups in successfully navigating the various Federal and State requirements for participation in cost-share programs are proposed. Lessons learned will inform future application of the action research model in this continuing study.

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