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Farmers, community members assist in hunger battle

Thousands face food shortage due to Covid-19 crisis

Donations facilitated by Upper Midlands Agricultural Transformation Initiative. Picture: Supplied

KwaZulu-Natal farmers, including in the KZN Midlands, have responded to the desperate calls about dwindling food supplies in communities in their areas, amid the nationwide lockdown.

Among them, farmers from Ixopo, Highflats, Kokstad, Mount Currie and Mooi River all reacted swiftly by donating fresh and dry produce, seedlings and milk to surrounding rural communities. The farmers also partnered with local organisations, churches and local municipalities to provide essential supplies for more than 4 500 families suffering during the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown.

Dairy farmers from Mooi River, Danone SA and the Upper Midlands Agricultural Transformation Initiative (uMATI), a non-profit organisation aimed at rapid transformation within the greater Mooi-Mpofana area, sought to assist local relief and welfare agency, the Lighthouse Community Centre.

uMATI facilitates donations of food products to affected people in the Mooi River-Mpofana area.

“We are always looking for opportunities to effect positive change and make a difference in our community. We were able to provide Danone products to the Lighthouse Community Centre that will feed 1 500 children daily,” said James Kean, chairman of uMATI and a Danone farmer.

In our area, chiefly Lidgetton to Mooi River, the community – through Action in Isolation and others – have been collecting donations of food and cash to collect, allocate and distribute food, blankets, face masks, even Easter eggs to school children and families most in need.

At our local Spar in Nottingham Road, Andrew Howe, Julie Howe, with DA ward councillor Sandile Mnikathi and the involvement of One Life Church, among others, are overseeing a collection for residents of the informal settlement in Nottingham Road.

Food collections in Nottingham Road. Picture supplied by Andrew Howe

In the Ixopo area, together with the local municipality, Woza Moya Foundation – a community-based NGO located in the Ifafa Valley – the Creighton Sunflower fund, a humanitarian NPO based in Creighton, farmers identified the most vulnerable communities and are working to source and put together food parcels. These are then distributed door-to-door.

Among the contribution were fresh and dry produce, seedlings and financial donations, which were used to buy produce from emerging farmers to sustain these communities in the upcoming weeks.

“When we heard that spaza shops were not among the initial list of essential suppliers, we knew our local communities would suffer greatly and that we needed to help,” said Bruce Allwood, chairman of the Ixopo Farmers’ Association Trust.

Social grants

“Our community caregivers carried out assessments, calculating the number of families running out of food. Many of these families made extra money through stalls on the side of the road or at schools and, without this income, cannot survive on social grants,” said founder of Woza Moya, Sue Hedden.

“The response was overwhelming, with R30 000 in financial donations and approximately 10 tons of food distributed to 200 families in the Ubuhlebezwe region,” said John Bredin, former chairman of the Ixopo Highflats Farmers’ Association.

Farmers in Kokstad and Mount Currie, together with their local municipality, the Kokstad Community Care Centre, the Kokstad Chamber of Commerce, ward councillors and churches identified those in need in their communities, and saw farmers donating 5 000 bottles of milk, cabbages, tomatoes, maize, potatoes, fruit as well as other fresh and dry produce. The donations were collected, packaged and delivered door-to-door.

Donated food ready to be allocated and delivered to families in need. Picture supplied by Andrew Howe

“We had to act quickly and began to rally the support of the community,” said Mount Currie Farmers’ Association and Kokstad Chamber of Commerce public relations spokesperson, Candace Wood.

“We have seen incredible pledges and bulk deliveries from farmers. We have been able to assist more than 700 families,” said Wood.

Kwanalu CEO Sandy La Marque commended the efforts of these farmers during the lockdown period.

“The selflessness, rapid organisation and collaboration of these farmers is truly outstanding and pays testament to the generosity and strength of the relationships the farmers have with their local authorities and local communities. We are incredibly proud of the work these farmers are doing,” said La Marque.

For further information on Kwanalu visit the website www.kwanalu.co.za

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