Emerging ChangeMakers Network to grow Black Belt

Published 4:13 pm Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Emerging ChangeMakers Network, based out of Mobile, announced that it is beginning a loan fund for those specifically in the Black Belt in a rural wealth creation initiative.

The network, ECN, seeks out those who are emerging leaders in the community and then helps support them by putting the leaders together, and then ECN connects the individuals back to their community. The Ford Foundation recently gave a grant to ECN in support of the rural wealth creation plans, making ECN’s Community Loan Fund Initiative the first project to target support for food production and distribution in this area.

“We are about one year in on a grant with the Ford Foundation and the grant was to develop alternative financing infrastructure for the Alabama Black Belt in particular,” Jessica Norwood, director and founder of Emerging ChangeMakers Network said. “Part of what we have done is look at alternative financing for the Black Belt and then we decided how we might want to plug in the gaps in the infrastructure.”

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While ECN normally works with individual leaders and brings them to Selma every year for Jubilee, Norwood said they are bringing in all sorts of people to Selma and the Black Belt to tour what resources are available.

“Alabama is spending about $2.4 billion on food and $2.2 billion of that is buying food from outside of the state,” she said. “We are exporting the food that we could be eating here in Alabama and if we could just capture some of that 2.2 billion we are exporting out and use that to build up our local economies — particularly in the Black Belt where farming is still a richly held piece of business — we might see some additions and growth.”

ECN’s plan is to bring in a tour of people and survey the needs of farmers as well as meet with restaurateurs and markets to see how they could use more local resources. Norwood will also be looking at what other products can be brought to the Black Belt region.