Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise
Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE), originally part of the Alabama Rural Initiative of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, is a nonprofit using an economic development and participatory involvement model to build infrastructure in impoverished, rural communities.
Started in 2002, ACRE has since been working towards addressing the root causes of poverty by providing education, tools, and expertise to communities. In Lowndes County, Alabama, 26.6 percent of families live below the poverty line and per capita income averages out to $12,457. These conditions motivated Catherine Coleman Flowers, a native of the community, to initiate a program which not only provides infrastructure and wastewater services, but stimulates economic growth and development for residents.
Lowndes County has grown accustomed to the flooding that results from moderate rains and a lack of wastewater infrastructure. Residents report sewage backups flooding basements, lawns, and streets, exposing them to harmful bacteria not normally found in effective wastewater systems.
Rather than waiting for a state or federal agency to step in, ACRE assists residents in building their own decentralized wastewater system to reduce flooding and improve local water quality. Giving ownership of the system to residents, as well as training community members to operate it, is a step towards ameliorating the rampant poverty the community faces.
ACRE’s impact extends beyond Lowndes County. The project received a grant from the EPA to become a National Demonstration Project that will provide a successful model for wastewater treatment, community outreach, and poverty reduction to other rural areas around the country.