The Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education Inc. (SWGAP) seeks to empower rural communities to work for change through education, advocacy, and economic development. It originally began in 1961 as a project of the Student Non-Violence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) when SNCC sent student Charles Sherrod to engage residents and coordinate activities for the Civil Rights Movement. In 1971 Charles Sherrod and his wife Shirley Miller founded the organization to continue the work of empowering black families in Southwest Georgia. Throughout its history, the organization has been an advocate for social justice through grassroots social community organizing among adults and youth, to register and educate voters, organize local advocacy groups, create jobs through the establishment of cooperative business and foods based businesses, and strengthen academic and leadership skills among youth.
SWGAP has several initiatives that focus on rebuilding communities. The Socially Disadvantaged Farmer Program focuses on administering technical assistance and training to limited resource farmers. We connect new farmers with mentor farmers and provide grant information and development workshops. Additionally, a Community Foods Program is centered on building and sustaining a regional food system for Southwest Georgia. This food system allows for affordable access to healthy locally grown produce in our region, especially in food insecure areas. WAGP is also building a Fresh Cut processing center that will allow smaller farmers to funnel their produce into the center and compete for larger markets that normally were only available to larger farmers.
SWGAP has been successful in beginning the Farm to School efforts in this region. For the first time, our farmers were able to get into a large market and have their farms and work highlighted. The farmers met with the children and educated them on what it is to be a farmer and how important it is to support locally grown food and local business.
SWGAP has also had success connecting farmers to USDA programs that provide them with irrigation and high tunnels on the farms, which inevitably increases their production and bottom line.