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Somali Bantu Community Association finds dream farm through Agrarian Commons

Muhidin Libah, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Somali Bantu Community Association.

As American farmers struggle to hold onto their livelihoods, farmers from socially disadvantaged groups face an even longer list of barriers including African-American, Latinx, Native American, women, immigrants, and LGBTQ+. Accessibility to land is the greatest barrier for new farmers’ entry and success. Additional barriers make utilizing sustainable practices economically unfeasible, such as structural socio-economic inequalities and a history of discrimination in credit markets, state and federal farm programs, and real estate. (Land Access for Beginning and Disadvantaged Farmers)

This is the context in which the Somali Bantu Community Association’s Liberation Farms Program exists. Based in Lewiston, Maine, the program was created to provide land access, food security and connection to this Somali Bantu community’s cultural roots as generational farmers.

With donation support, the long standing dream for a secure farm home can become a reality for the Somali Bantu Community Association. The founding of Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons offers access to land for sustainable agriculture and cultural identity for Somali immigrant farmers. This fundraising effort will put a 107 acre property into an Agrarian Trust Commons and grant the Somali Bantu Community Association a 99-year equitable rolling lease, which in turn allows the community to transfer their prized agricultural skills, knowledge and traditions to future generations. Partner organization Agrarian Trust and the SBCA are now fundraising to make this farmland purchase possible by December 1st, 2020.

For the last 30 years we have been refugees, moving through different towns in Somalia and living in refugee camps in neighboring Kenya. For 30 years we have been looking for a place we can call home. Home in our community means a place that is safe and secure, where we can farm freely and where we can exercise our cultural traditions. Getting this property will check all the boxes and for the first time we have a place we call home.” – Muhidin Libah, Executive Director of SBCA

Little Jubba Central Maine is connected to a rich collaboration and partnership among multiple organizations, including the Somali Bantu Community Association of Maine (SBCA), Agrarian Trust, Cooperative Development Institute, Land For Good, Land in Common, Maine Farmland Trust, and American Farmland Trust.

Top left to right: Osman Hassan (SBCA farmer), Hasan Barjin (SBCA Farm Manager), Ethan Miller (Land in Common), Jim Hanna (Cumberland County Food Security Council), Kristina Kalolo (SBCA Markets Manager), Jesse Saffeir (Bates College), Ian McSweeney (Agrarian Trust). Bottom left to right: Habiba Salat (SBCA farmer), Lana Cannon Dracup (SBCA Farm Operations Manager), Erica Buswell (formally Maine Farmland Trust), Muhidin Libah (SBCA Executive Director), Abby Sadauckas (Land for Good), Ashley Bahlkow (SBCA Program Advisor /Land Acquisition Project Lead), Bonnie Rukin (Slow Money Maine), Catherine Padgett (SBCA AmeriCorps VISTA).

Together, these organizations have supported the SBCA in addressing land access challenges, guiding the group through a process of learning about land tenure options and land seeking. The decision to form this Agrarian Commons is the latest step in securing farmland tenure for generations of Somali Bantu agrarians to come.

The SBCA chose the name Little Jubba Central Maine to describe their relationship to land, the Jubba River Valley being their ancestral farmland and Central Maine being their home now and the place where they can safely continue their generational farming practices.

It is a beautiful property, there are allied farmers nearby and I’m honored to be part of the first Agrarian Commons in Maine.” – Abby Sadauckas, LFG’s Maine Field Agent

This Agrarian Commons is critically important; acknowledging the land injustice that the Bantu peoples experience and knowing demographic and cultural realities that exist in Maine and Auburn-Lewiston. The Agrarian Commons keeps land locally controlled and makes it accessible and affordable to small-scale farmers so they can grow food for their community. As data now clearly demonstrates, the cost of land and access to it challenges most small farmers who don’t inherit land, especially farmers of color and other socially disadvantaged groups. This model of land tenure also promotes regenerative diversified food production, collective ecosystem stewardship, and returns natural capital to land.

Somali Bantu Community Association’s mission is to provide vital transitional services, advocacy, and programming that empowers members of the refugee community to uphold cultural identity and thrive in their new life here in Lewiston, Maine. The mission of the SBCA’s Liberation Farms is to provide new American farmers access to, and culturally-appropriate resources for, the means of sustainable food production for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Agrarian Trust is creating innovation in land ownership, access, tenure, and equity opportunities to transform our relationships to the land and each other. With 400,000,000 acres of farmland currently changing hands, and with 98% of all farmland being owned by white people and a majority of non-farmers across the country, the time for transformation in how land is owned, accessed, valued, and used is now. Agrarian Trust is collaborating with stakeholders, networks, and collective efforts, and creating the local Agrarian Commons model to own land, farms, and agricultural assets and convey tenure to the next generation of farmers and ranchers to foster a regeneration of the land and care for the Earth.

Learn more about the farm project opportunity and the Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons: agrariantrust.org/agrariancommons/little-jubba-central-maine/

Support this land acquisition project directly by donating to the Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons: agrariantrust.org/agrariancommons/little-jubba/

More on our blog to read about the Somali Bantu farmers and New Roots Cooperative Farm: landforgood.org/new-roots-cooperative-farm/

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