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New "Faithlands" Toolkit Helps Religious Groups Put Land to Good Use

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Bernadette Zambrano saves seeds for Sogorea Te' Land Trust, a group based in Oakland that works to return lands to indigenous peoples. (Ines Ixierda)
Bernadette Zambrano saves seeds for Sogorea Te' Land Trust, a group based in Oakland that works to return lands to indigenous peoples. (Ines Ixierda)
 By Suzanne Potter - Producer, Contact
April 29, 2021

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Religious groups often own large properties but don't have the expertise to make them work for the community. Now, an online tool being released today can help them use the land for the greater good.

The free FaithLands Toolkit from the Agrarian Trust has practical advice and case studies on how to partner with a land trust or farm.

Ariel Luckey, development director for the Sogorea Te' Land Trust in Oakland, works to restore land to indigenous people.

"There's a lot of complicated logistical and political questions about how to best take care of the land," Luckey explained. "How to share it, how to move it. And this toolkit is going to provide a lot of really useful information."

Molly Burhans, founder and executive director of GoodLands, a nonprofit that helps map and evaluate lands owned by the Catholic Church and other groups, said religious groups own more than 8% of habitable land around the world, so their choices have a huge impact.

"Their land can play a key role in the future of humanity for climate change, for environmental stewardship, for food security and migration," Burhans outlined.

Darriel Harris, senior pastor of Newborn Community of Faith Church in Baltimore, said his parishioners cleared the trash off a piece of land in a blighted neighborhood and turned it into an organic farm, called Strength to Love II, in order to create jobs.

"Our faith says that we have to meet the needs of the least of these, meet the needs of the marginalized, and our neighbors needed employment," Harris asserted. "So we created a farm to give employment to people returning from incarceration."

The toolkit also guides groups on ways to promote equity and justice through programs such as community gardens.

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