Clarenda Stanley

Interview with Clarenda Stanley, N4J’s MD of Farmer Inclusion (Part 1)

Clarenda Stanley

We recently welcomed Clarenda Stanley as the new Managing Director of Farmer Inclusion for Nature for Justice.

Clarenda is a farmer herself who grows herbs and medicinal plants in North Carolina.

Clarenda works in communications and fundraising as well, bringing in a multidisciplinary approach to running the N4J BIPOC Farmers Initiative.

Lisa Cloete (LC): As a practicing farmer can you tell us about the three things that you consider most important – from a farmer’s perspective – that we should know about climate smart agriculture?

Clarenda Stanley (CS): The first thing is your impact on the land: What inputs are you using, what quality of seed is being used? What are your production/ growing processes (no-till vs low-till vs tilling) and how can these benefit or harm the land?

Second, is the quality of what you are producing: Whether this is food produce, or like I am growing herbs and medicinal plants, or if the crops have some other industrial applications such as fiber or fuel or feed. We need to ensure that the quality of what’s being produced is optimal so that we are putting good things out into the world, in the most climate friendly way possible.

Thirdly, one of the most important things to me is ensuring that the farmer is in a good mental and emotional space, which includes being economically stable and secure so that the farmer doesn’t feel that they have to compromise on the inputs or growing practices that they are implementing based purely on financial decision making points.

We need farmers to have the resources to make the best decisions for the land and we need to ensure that they have that support and are able to make those decisions. I believe that most smallholder farmers do care about the environment and want to take care of the land.

They understand that the land is what produces, and that happy land creates greater yields. Many farmers are forced to make very tough decisions because they don’t have the financial resources, technical assistance, or access to the tools they need.

Providing these things to farmers benefits all of us, more so in the long run, as these are decisions that lessen the impact on our climate.

LC: Underserved communities are being affected by a disproportionate burden from climate change. How can we scale our efforts to serve the maximum number of these underserved communities?

Clarenda StanleyCS: I think it is only fair before we discuss the ‘underserved’ to also mention the ‘over-served’. The reason that the underserved exist is because there are parts of our society that have benefited from resources that have rendered many communities environmentally vulnerable.

Historically, the communities that have been systematically excluded have often been in areas that are more prone to natural disasters and issues that arise from climate change. There is more flooding and bigger storms and these communities are the most economically fragile as well, due to the systemic oppressions that have been allowed to be in place for so long.

We have to recognise the fact that many of the people that we now entrust to make the decisions to protect these communities have played a major role in putting these communities in the position that they are in. The way to decrease these inequities and to help build resilience in these communities and populations is to support these populations and the leaders among them by equipping them with the resources that they need to become more resilient.

It’s a shift that needs to take place and move away from the saviorship mindset and understand the roles that everyone has played in where we are right now. It’s not some sudden occurrence, it has evolved over time and now our climate is suffering and it’s not because of the activities of these communities; rather it is because of the activities of the over-served.

The Whole Idea of Scale

Any time we are talking about climate and scale (especially here in the U.S.) you are limiting the input that these communities can have because we have created this system of ownership that has allowed very few to own the most and to have the decision-making capacity over the majority of resources.

So we have to shift this whole idea of scale and quantitative approach to how we are going to fix things while also recognizing the qualitative connections that many cultures have to the land. For many communities, taking care of the environment is not something separate from their cultural beliefs.

A westernized view is that the environment is completely separate. We talk about the environment and climate change as these separate concepts when instead, protecting our planet should be embedded in your everyday life – it’s not this separate thing. Unfortunately that is not the prevailing world view and when we have conversations about climate change and resiliency we tend to separate them from social justice issues.

We need to get rid of some of the old guard and be more proactive about developing our young global leaders who have that mindset and have the ability to vote and elect people to speak for us on the climate front. We have to be very intentional about wanting to have leaders who understand all of the nuances and layers that are included in climate change.

LC: Thank you Clarenda for taking time from your busy schedule to speak with us! It is clear that underpinning all factors of building climate resiliency is a global shift to a more Nature-based Mindset. We look forward to hearing more from you in the near future.  

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