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AAMU Ag Faculty, Students Reach Out to Black Belt

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Workshop participants flank Rev. J.H. Davis, 94 years old

but a very active motivator and land owner.


by Jerome Saintjones


Huntsville, Ala. ---- Alabama A&M University agriculture and environmental science faculty and students are still reaping benefits from a one-day workshop held in a small town in Alabama’s Black Belt region toward year’s end.


Gyawali2.jpgAgroforestry research and outreach efforts were made during a program in Thomaston, Ala., where research assistant professor Buddhi Raj Gyawali and assistant professor Swagata “Ban” Banerjee, both of the College of Agricultural, Life and Natural Sciences, addressed a group of  landowners.  The men, joined by graduate student Bonita Hill and junior agribusiness major Ryan McCloud, wanted to learn the perception of landowners on the inclusion of goats in their pastures and forestry lands.


Drs. Gyawali and Banerjee also sought to educate the limited-resource landowners about the benefits of raising goats in an agroforestry system as a likely alternative for generating income, as well as exploring chances for collaborative research partnerships with Alabama A&M, Tuskegee University, and local organizations and agencies.


Nearly three dozen landowners from the Black Belt counties of Alabama and Mississippi were joined by nine representatives from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Federation of Southern Cooperatives (FSA), Winston County Self Help Cooperative (WCSHC) and the National Network of Forest Practitioners (NNFP).  Among the participants was Rev. J.H. Davis, a highly motivated and enthusiastic 94-year-old, who drove the 30 miles from his home in Camden to attend the workshop.


The AAMU researchers shared current research, participated in a focus group discussion panel, and coordinated the presentations of speakers from relevant agencies.   Currently, some participants are working with local agencies, AAMU and Tuskegee University to develop ‘producers' grants’ to establish agroforestry demonstration farms on their property, says Gyawali.


The AAMU student participants also benefitted from the workshop by gaining a better understanding of the current issues facing minority landowners, exploring internship opportunities with local organizations and agencies, interviewing landowners and establishing networks.


The workshop was an outgrowth of Dr. Gyawali’s research grant from Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) for goat-agroforestry land management system, and he organized a similar workshop in Luverne, Ala., in August 2011.   


Thanks to his research and outreach background in the human dimensions of natural resources, Gyawali is currently working with Dr. Nar Gurung of Tuskegee University and Dr. Yaoqi Zhang of Auburn University to develop a collaborative research grant to evaluate economic and environmental impacts of goat-agroforestry land management systems.  


For additional information about goat agroforestry land management and pertinent efforts in the Black Belt, contact Dr. Gyawali at (256) 372-5870 or Dr. S. Banerjee at (256) 372-4825.


Head Shot:  Gyawali