Commercial and small-scale sugarcane farmers have banded together on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast to help ease the plight and growing poverty of scores of rural families suffering in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown.
A total of R600 000 has been raised by the Sezela Cane Growers’ Association – an affiliate of SA Canegrowers – for food and a further R60 000 for personal protective gear, while a substantial number of food parcels have been handed out by land restitution beneficiaries in the region.
Land restitution growers are communities which bought land through the government’s land reform programmes and have management agreements with neighbouring commercial farmers.
Chairman of the Sezela Cane Growers’ Association Errol Koekemoer said the decision to hand out food parcels was unanimously agreed to by the organisation’s board.
“We decided that in these exceptional times we would use funds from our ‘war chest’ to make a meaningful contribution towards the alleviation of the growing hunger in our communities,” said Koekemoer.
The money is being distributed in the form of “eCoupons” which the recipients redeem for food at Boxer Stores in nearby towns. More than 355 people have so far received the coupons and all have been redeemed.
The association intends to continue distributing eCoupons in the coming months as the impact of the pandemic deepens in these rural areas.
SA Canegrowers’ Board member and a small-scale sugarcane grower on the South Coast, Rejoice Ncwane, said the eCoupons and food parcels were a lifeline for those who received them.
“I now have a situation though where people are flocking to my house daily to ask how they too can receive the coupons. So many people have no idea where their next meal is going to come from.”
The Sezela Canegrowers Association has also spent R60 000 on 4 500 face masks which the association is distributing to its members, including small-scale, commercial and new freehold and land reform growers.
Koekemoer said the kindness and generosity he had witnessed, particularly from the land restitution beneficiaries – with whom the association and commercial farmers had close links – was not only heart-warming but “deeply” humbling.
“The Mathulini community in the Mtwalume district packaged and distributed 218 substantial food parcels and the Mgai Community Trust, just inland of Ifafa, distributed 180 similar hampers, delivering to not only their own members but also to needy families in their areas,” he said.
“We have had the most incredible response and there are so many people we need to thank. Boxer Stores has been unbelievably helpful,” Koekemoer said.
*Provided by Errol Koekemoer, chair of the Sezela Canegrowers’ Association. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In another lockdown food relief effort Underberg farmers have also been doing their bit.
Kwanalu (KZN Agricultural Union) posted on its Facebook page:
“Yet another encouraging story of farmers going above and beyond to feed the nation. Underberg Farmers Association have pulled together their resources to deliver two successful food donations to their community during Lockdown.
“In partnership with local NPOs, the Harry Gwala District Municipality and businesses, farmers donated cash and produce to ensure that the needy within the Underberg region are supported. We applaud the strength in unity our farmers are showcasing during this difficult time for the people in our country.”
Farmers donated cash, dry packs (maize meal, oil, beans and Imana) and produce (including potatoes, seedlings, milk and cheese) towards the scheme which has fed 400 families in 3 to 4 week rotations. Many more are set to be fed as the initiative expands to other areas.
More info on the Underberg Farmers Association Facebook page.