Name as it appears on the ballot: Anjali Boyd
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: www.Anjali4Durham.com
Occupation & employer: PhD Student at Duke University
1. Why are you running for the position of soil and water conservation district supervisor? In your answer, please explain your understanding of the role and why it is important.
Soil & Water Conservation Districts are tasked with enhancing, protecting, and improving soil and water resources throughout the state of North Carolina. As District Supervisor I (along with the other Board members) would be responsible for establishing local soil and water conservation priorities based on the needs of Durham county. This has direct health and economic implications for diverse communities throughout Durham.
In 1988, Mrs. Stella Adams became the first Black woman in the history of the state of North Carolina to earn and serve as a Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor. Thus, a legacy began. For over 30 years, the efforts of the Black women who served in this position have inspired other women to aspire for, win and serve other counties across North Carolina. As District Supervisor of Durham County Soil & Water Conservation District, my goal is to serve my hometown and build on those powerful legacies during my tenure of service.
Today there are over 450 Soil & Water Supervisors throughout the state of North Carolina, only 3 are Black women, which means there is an entire lens that is not being seen when designing and implementing conservation solutions. My candidacy for District Supervisor of Durham County Soil & Water Conservation District is about more than bringing scientists, like myself, into policy and decision making processes.
It’s also about increasing representation for people of Color and Black Women in environmental conservation fields. It is about being the representation I never saw in our environmental conservation leaders growing up, and it is about bringing new perspectives, ideas, and view-points to address the world’s most pressing human health and environmental issues. In doing so, I aspire to build partnerships with influential organizations in environmental conservation fields to elevate the voice of the youth, people of Color, and women, to ensure a diversity of views are incorporated into our efforts to create sustainable and equitable conservation strategies.
I am the most qualified person to serve in this capacity. The combination of my international expertise in the environmental conservation field and my extensive roots in Durham County are the immediate aspects of my candidacy that are glaring. As a marine and environmental scientist, I have intensively studied these topics full-time; around water quality, natural resource management, and environmental conservation for the last 6 years. I have done so throughout the United States and internationally.
As a #DurhamNative and a Durham Public Schools graduate, I have the connections, perspective, and awareness needed to advocate for our communities and connect new and existing Soil & Water programs to those who would benefit from them the most. While also introducing them to a wide array of residents of whom Soil & Water programs could be augmented.
I am committed to using my experience, knowledge, formal education and commitment to the Bull City and Durham County along with my immersion in the environmental conservation field to connect with and promote advocacy for our youth. I am deeply passionate about Durham and invested in the success of Durham County, as it is my home and has been my family’s home for generations.
2. What are the three most pressing natural resources issues in the county? How do you plan to address these issues? Please be specific.
I have identified three key issues facing the county, which are grounded in the rich history of Durham County and North Carolina: Education, Economic Development, and Environmental Justice.
North Carolina is known for producing some of the best Educators in the country. Durham is home to two highly competitive academic institutions and Durham Public Schools produced our entire #DurhamNative campaign team. Our education platform is focused on properly equipping generations and communities with the knowledge and resources necessary to make informed decisions on the management and conservation of Durham’s natural resources. It’s also my responsibility to listen to these same communities and learn from their perspectives on Durham’s natural resources and how their relationships to them could be augmented. I will go about doing this, using the following guidelines;
- Securing funding for a full-time environmental education staff member
- Our district recently lost our environmental educator, who worked tirelessly to expand our education programs and reach more Durham residents. This has had grave impacts on our community, our district, and our education programing. As District Supervisor I will work to gain funding for a full-time Environmental Education staffer. I will pursue alternative funding venues (e.g. National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, etc) to accomplish this.
- Expand the BETC program, which works to employ Durham Public Schools high school students on environmental restoration projects.
- Incorporating these programs at majority-minority high schools in Durham County, such as Hillside High School
- Ensuring our programs and educational materials are inclusive of Spanish speaking students, by creating all materials in both English and Spanish.
- We have a growing Lantix community in Durham, and we need to ensure that all our programs and communication materials are accessible to all. This is the same reason why our #DurhamNative team has insisted on releasing 100% of our communications in both English and Spanish at the same time.
- Partner with educators to raise awareness of Soil & Water, our missions, and values
- Ensure that local educators and our youth know about and have access to Soil & Water education funds
- Incorporate environmental conservation and AgScience into their yearly curriculum.
Agriculture and agribusiness is the #1 industry in North Carolina, and contributes billions to the state’s economy. Our Economic Development platform is focused on increasing urban agricultural and agribusiness opportunities in Durham Count and ensuring marginalized communities know about the economic opportunities available to all in Agriculture.
Simultaneously, I will advocate for; increased funding for the Agricultural Economic Development grant, expanding Farm-to-Table programs, and creating financial and technical assistance programs to lower the barrier of entry for GAP certification and FNS EBT licensing. I will also encourage our district to build partnerships with the Sheriff’s Department to create job training programs within our County jail.
In addition to continuing programs to assist and support Black and minority farmers, such as our Black Farmers Breakfast, which is designed to provide a networking opportunity for Black Farmers and local restaurant and business owners. Lastly, recent studies have found that farmers who are tech-savvy have been better off than their counterparts that are not during COVID-19. We will be working to connect local farmers with technology that’ll help them increase sales during and after the pandemic.
Environmental racism is the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of Color. It is often called the ‘forgotten’ sector of social justice, as it is often left off of the list of social injustices that people of Color face (such as income inequality, education, health care, racial discriminations, etc.). However, I believe it is one of the most deadly injustices people of Color face, as there is a direct link between environmental condition and human health. Environmental racism is interwoven with the myriad of injustices that communities of color face and are connected to various pressing issues in Durham County (e.g. gun violence, food insecurity, health and housing disparities).
Furthermore, North Carolina is recognized nationally as being the catalyst for the Environmental Justice movement in America. Those residents of Warren County protested the government’s decision to build a hazardous waste landfill in their county to dispose of toxic soil.
I will continue to fight for Environmental Justice for all of Durham’s residents affected by environmental racism, as Environmental Justice is Economic Justice and Health Justice. As District Supervisor, I will work with our communities, especially marginalized communities, to develop sustainable and equitable solutions to:
- Protect and conserve Durham’s natural resources
- Ensuring Durham’s natural resources are not disproportionately impacted by pollution from other NC counties
- Improving water quality and decreasing sedimentation and nutrient pollution in Jordan and Falls Lake
- Ensuring that low-income and marginalized communities have equitable access to green spaces.
- Research has shown the positive effects of nature and well-maintained green spaces have on decreasing violent crimes, such as gun violence, which is a pressing issue in Durham County.
- Combat food insecurities and water pollution and prepare for extreme weather events (e.g. heat waves, flooding, etc.).
- Poor food and water quality decrease overall human health, which can lead to health disparities and overwhelm our health care and medical systems.
- Increasing FNS licensing among farmers and farmers markets will make farmers markets and produce more accessible to low income communities and increase revenue among farmers.
- Creating proactive solutions (e.g. planting trees & restoring eroding creeks) to prepare for extreme weather events.
3. Identify examples of how the district can best balance agricultural/rural and urban interests in regards to soil and water conservation.
Durham is very unique for many reasons, but from an environmental conservation and natural resource management perspective we are unique because we have urban, suburban, and rural areas throughout the county. Which means we have the ability to create a self-sustaining county, unlike other cities throughout the United States. As of now, our county is not doing enough to maximum and efficiently use our natural resources. To balance agricultural/rural and urban interests in the county, we must work together!
Expanding Farm-to-Table programs, developing financial and technical assistance programs to lower the barrier of entry for GAP certification and FNS EBT licensing, and connecting farmers with essential technology, will assist our agricultural communities by increasing profits and creating new economic opportunities. These same programs will benefit our urban communities by increasing food security throughout the county, making healthy food accessible and cost effective, and assisting local businesses with securing local food vendors.
Furthermore, the pandemic has threatened the livelihood of many small businesses and local farmers. Recent estimates project that ~60% small businesses are facing permanent closure and more than ⅓ of small and independent farmers will go bankrupt as a result of the pandemic.
Our district is uniquely positioned to help struggling businesses and farmers by facilitating partnerships and providing financially and technical assistance. Facilitating partnerships can take the form of expanding Farm-to-Table programs and/or connecting farmers with local tech companies to design innovative e-commerce technology. Providing financial and technical assistance should include creating programs that make it easier and cost-effective for farmers to secure important certifications, such as GAP certification and FNS EBT licensing. GAP certification enables local farmers to sell their produce to local schools and jails, while FNS EBT licensing allows farmers to accept SNAP benefits as a form of payment.
4. What funding issues are facing the Soil and Water Conservation District? How would you ensure the district receives full funding? Are there alternative funding sources the district could explore? If so, what are they?
Over the last few years, the district has had a challenging time securing funding for a full-time Environmental Education staff position. As of recently, our district was able to secure funding for a part-time contractor to assist with our education programing. There are a diverse array of state and federal STEM focused funding sources that our district has yet to tap into.
As District Supervisor, I will work with our staff to secure funding for an Environmental Education staff member through alternative funding sources, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), North Carolina Sea Grant, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, etc. Our district should partner with local academic institutions and non-profits to apply for grants through these alternative funding sources to expand our STEM and environmental restoration internship programs. I believe our district could pave the way and show other districts how to build and utilize partnerships with STEM organizations and academic institutions to assist in their education programing.
5. Many residents don’t know what the Soil and Water Conservation District actually does. In what ways would you reach out to residents to educate them on the issues facing the county and the district’s efforts?
The lack of awareness of Durham County’s Soil and Water Conservation District is a pressing problem that I hope to address by 1) working with staff and educators to redesigning our district’s education programing and 2) collaborating with local businesses to create a marketing strategy for our district.
One of the best ways to ensure our youth are knowledgeable about pressing environmental issues and the local Soil and Water Conservation District, is by working with educators to infuse this information into their yearly curriculum. In order to accomplish this, our district should secure funding for a full-time environmental education staff position, expand the BETC program to more Durham Public Schools (DPS) and offer more job training/internship opportunities, and create ‘hallmark’ field trips for DPS students. Securing a full-time environmental education staff position is imperative for counting and expanding upon our environmental education programing. Expanding the BETC program to more DPS schools, will allow us to reach more students from diverse backgrounds.
Additionally, by offering more job training/internship opportunities for high school students through the BETC program, will allow students to 1) gain hands-on experience on environmental restoration projects, 2) work closely with district staff on projects in their community, and 3) develop essential and transferable skills for the “Green Economy”.
Lastly, creating ‘hallmark’ field trips for DPS students will allow the district to connect with students at different stages throughout their K-12 experience. Our district should work to create an annual field trip for all DPS 3rd, 8th, and 10th grade students. Each field trip will align with N.C. education standards for those prospective grades, and will give students an opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom to the natural environment. An example field trip for 8th grade students could be visiting a local watershed with District Staff to learn about the watershed and collect water samples to examine the water quality in class.
To increase awareness of Durham County’s Soil and Water Conservation District among adults, our District should work with local businesses to develop a county-wide marketing strategy. For most of our District’s programs, residents have to ‘apply’ to participate in them, however that is not possible if residents do not know about the district or our programs. The first part of our marketing strategy has to be messaging, what do we want residents to know about us? This will vary based on the resident, there are certain programs that appeal more to our urban residents (e.g. BETC program, Community Conservation Assistance Program), while others appeal more to our rural residents and small farmers (e.g. Agricultural Cost Share Program).
The second part of the marketing strategy should be expanding our online presence on social media and revamping our website. Having a more active presence on social media will allow us to reach more Durham residents on a regular basis, and spread information about new programs and opportunities to a larger audience. Finally, revamping our website will be an essential, as it is currently outdated and hard to navigate. Our district’s updated website should 1) make it easier to find important information/programs and 2) clearly layout the contact person for certain types of questions.
6. What is the district’s role in making sure residents’ water–including those people who use wells―is safe to drink? What role, if any, should the district play in safeguarding the local water supply from emerging contaminants?
The district has a very active role in safeguarding our county’s water resources, and as District Supervisor I will ensure this continues. The majority of our District’s programs are designed to improve Water Quality throughout the County and state of North Carolina. Our district’s cost-share programs are our strongest asset in decreasing pollution/runoff and accomplishing our goals of protecting, enhancing, and conserving our natural resources. These programs enable us to create buffers in our watersheds and on our local farms, and assist us in reducing Nitrogen, Phosphorus and stormwater runoff that flows into our waterways. My work will focus on expanding programs that protect our soil and water resources, such as stream restoration projects, Ag Cost Share Program, and Community Conservation Assistance Program (CCAP).
To expand upon our work to protect and enhance water resources in Durham, our district should 1) invest in more stream restoration projects, 2) construct more rain cisterns, and 3) expand the Ag Cost Share Program and other incentive based programs focused on water quality (e.g. Community Conservation Assistance Program (CCAP)).
Our District’s stream restoration program has constantly been used as a ‘model system’ among other Soil & Water districts. As District Supervisors, I aspire to expand our stream restoration programs and work to make it a more efficient and proactive program. I believe it is critical that our district takes a more proactive role in identifying and restoring eroding and degraded streams throughout the county.
One of the issues we have in Durham County is that there are tons of streams, many of which we do not know of and are located on private property. In order to be more strategic and effective in our stream restoration projects, we need to initiate a county-wide mapping project to map all of the stream, creeks, and rivers flowing into our watersheds and water reservoirs. Once that is completed, it will allow us to identify and prioritize streams that have the greatest impacts on our watersheds and reservoirs, which will allow us to maximize our dollars during restoration projects.
Funding rain cistern/rainwater harvesting system projects are great low-cost high-yield ways for the district to reduce runoff and protect our water resources. It can also be a great way for landowners to save money on their water bill, while also contributing to the county’s efforts to conserve water resources. The Ag Cost Share is focused on assisting farmers and landowners in increasing water use efficiency, availability, and storage. In an effort to expand our local Ag Cost Share program, we should seek to secure additional funds (through grants and other efforts) to match the funding from the NC Soil & Water Conservation Division.
Our district’s work is ever evolving based on the needs of our community and the changing environment. I will work to ensure this continues and that our district and our Durham community are at the forefront of developing innovative policies and projects to protect and enhance our water resources.
7. Are there any other issues you would like to address that have not been covered by this questionnaire?
Food insecurity is a pressing issue that is more important than ever to address. In Durham County around 20% of students are food insecure, which raises the questions: how do we get healthy food to students in need during a pandemic that requires students to participate in online learning? There are short-term solutions to combat food insecurity and long-term solutions to essentially eliminate it throughout our county.
In the short-term, our District should work to increase GAP certification among farmers, which enables farmers to sell the produce to local schools. We should also work to develop innovative ways to get students access to healthy and affordable foods, such as creating programs to get fresh foods into local gas stations or creating mobile farmer’s markets/farmer’s market food trucks. The long-term solutions to eliminate food insecurity is to develop a more robust system of urban farming, aquaponics, heavy investment in local agribusiness and diversity among business ownership.
Due to the vastness of the district’s work and mission, in conjunction with it’s connections to local, state, and federal organizations/resources, I believe the District would be well-suited to lead this effort.
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