Everything that SMHA does – from working with communities, to establishing a Gulf Coast Fisher Loan Fund, to Rural Recovery – is centered around a belief that our lands and waters are our future, they are the foundation of our community, and they are essential to achieving prosperity for hard working families.
In Southern Louisiana – and across the South – our rural lands and waters are at the heart of our culture, our economy, our way of life. Finding win-win solutions that bring people together to protect our lands and waters are critical important precisely because they are a shared resource at the heart of our rural communities.
SMHA has worked with Bayou fishing communities and organizations to access new markets for their seafood with innovation approaches like the White Boot Brigade, a roving farmers market that brought fresh seafood to people’s doorsteps. We’ve supported sugarcane farmers to find more sustainable ways to take care of the land and water needed to continue to grow sugarcane and worked with farmers to identify environmentally friendly ways to harvest. SMHA has worked with both fishers and farmers to develop policies and advocate for themselves with lawmakers in Baton Rouge and Washington, D.C. We’ve helped farmers and fishers identify and work together with bankers, environmentalists, and policy makers to find solutions that work for everyone.
Teche Ridge’s Traditional Neighborhood Development approach is focused on life quality for all residents, by building in walkability, community events and activities, and green areas, while also showcasing Southern Louisiana culture and heritage. When SMHA helps families become homeowners, we also make sure they gain the skills and knowledge to make their homes environmentally friendly and energy-saving, which also saves them money on utility and maintenance costs.
The Gulf Coast Fisher Loan Fund – in addition to making capital and credit affordability for small businesses and fishers – will focus on fisher stewardship of our bayous and coastal areas. Fishers understand the importance of maintaining these areas, which area so critical for seafood production.
Rural Recovery Response is ultimately about awareness – awareness of our interconnectedness, of our ability to help ourselves and each other, as well as awareness about what coastal loss and climate change means for increased vulnerability and risk of severe weather events.
Ultimately, all our work integrates our Life Quality approach, as protecting our lands and waters is an integral part of what we do and how we work.