Co-operators in the USA have mobilised relief efforts after severe weather raged through Alabama last month, with the cities of Selma and Eutaw hit by a tornado.
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund sent an emergency team to the area to help the community cover roofs with blue tarps, with many residents sheltering in their damaged homes to save their belongings.
Made up of Alabama-based staff, the Federation team was led by Freddie Davis, director of its Rural Training & Research Center (RTRC) in Epes.
While in Selma, the disaster relief team helped with the clean-up operation, cutting and clearing trees and brush. They also answered phone calls, prepared lunches, mended fences, served dinners, and provided residents with guidance to resource locations.
While recovery work continues, the Federation is offering temporary housing at the RTRC to families impacted by the tornado.
“The Federation is committed to providing co-operative development and land retention support and other resources for family farmers to aid in the recovery and rebuilding process.” said Davis.
Historically, rural communities have less developed infrastructure, greater distances between people and services, and fewer resources. The Federation says these communities suffer more from disaster, as limited resources can’t support the assistance needed, and what help there is takes twice as long to arrive. The greatest needs during times of disaster are food, water, and shelter.
“Family farmers, co-operatives and community-based organisations, like the Federation, are usually positioned to assist communities and populations severely affected by disasters, and other economic hardships,” added the Federation, a 56-year-old co-operative association of black farmers, landowners, and co-ops.
“Disaster relief and recovery is a major part of our overall co-operative economic development, land retention, and advocacy efforts,” said the Federation’s executive director Cornelius Blanding.
“We understand there are various challenges of rebuilding rural communities after a major disaster; the community itself – including farmers, landowners, and cooperatively owned businesses – must be part of the relief and recovery efforts in order to create resilient communities.
“Farmers are first responders and have always been.”
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