The Black Belt region of Alabama is endowed with immense forest resources. However, land-loss, high poverty, unemployment, and low education levels have persisted among African Americans, the majority population in the region. This paper discusses the approach, the challenges and the lessons learned by the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in their adaptation of a community-based forestry approach with a focus on social, economic and political benefits for private landowners. Education and technical assistance, coalition-building, networking and cooperative development strategies were used to increase land-retention, improve access to public and private services and implement land-based income-earning opportunities. This approach resulted in the engagement of a marginalised people in land-based poverty reduction strategies. However, many of the poorest have not yet realised the direct benefit of the community-based forestry approach because of its low credibility among private and public land managers and agencies, the time it takes to develop collaborative processes and the Federation's limited resources.
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Vol. 11 • No. 2