Crops with no market reach piecemeal workers with no food

12 April 2020 - 00:00
Residents of Orange Farm with some of the fresh produce they received.
Residents of Orange Farm with some of the fresh produce they received.
Image: Facebook

Restaurants opening their kitchens, farmers donating fresh produce, people giving away the little they have — South Africans are rallying around those most affected by the lockdown.

Almost half of all adults in SA are living below the “upper-bound poverty line”, according to Stats SA’s latest household survey.

Dr Imtiaz Sooliman of Gift of the Givers said they were receiving thousands of calls from people asking for food.

“These are calls from people who wouldn’t ordinarily need our help. It’s your car guards, waiters, and people who do piecemeal jobs who are used to earning an income for themselves but have been unable to do so in the past couple of weeks due to the lockdown,” he said.

In Orange Farm in Gauteng this week, more than 100 families received food parcels, thanks to the Ubuntu project, a collaboration between the Green Business College and small-scale farmers in the area.

Dorah Marema of the Green Business College told the Sunday Times each family will receive a box of fresh produce, and also seedlings and compost.

“Each family will be able to create a food garden. We will continue to offer only food packages as the weeks go by as it will take time for seedlings to produce.

“We will create a database so that there is a record of who received what, and with a WhatsApp group the farmers will support the families as they grow their gardens,” she said.

Marema said people ordering vegetables from the farmers are also pledging to buy for needy families.

“Food security means so much more than just food on the table. It touches the core of human dignity,” she said.

Tim Abaa and Thuli Mthethwa in Orange Farm with some of the produce they donated to needy families.
Tim Abaa and Thuli Mthethwa in Orange Farm with some of the produce they donated to needy families.

One of the farmers involved in the project, Tim Abaa, said priority is given to child-headed households, the elderly and people living with disabilities.

Abaa, who runs his farm on 6ha, said delivering his produce to the market would have been difficult.

“Although farming is seen as an essential service, it was going to be difficult for me to get a permit for a driver because I don’t have a permanent driver here.”

Next week they will expand to other townships in the south of Johannesburg. Recipient Lindiwe Khumalo said this was an unexpected gift that would go a long way.

“I’ve already planted the seeds we were given and can’t wait to see my own garden grow.” In Beaufort West in the Western Cape, a town beset by socioeconomic challenges, the community has come together to set up a temporary shelter for destitute people — and the town’s residents are making sure they are fed and taught new skills.

Mayor Noel Constable said 49 children and adults are housed at the shelter.

in numbers

• 23 - The total number of small-scale farmers the Green Business College is working with

• 30 - The number of beneficiaries of the Nosh food rescue in Johannesburg • 103 - The number needy families that received fresh produce in Orange Farm this week

“It is awesome to see how businesses and ordinary locals opened up their hearts to the homeless,” he said.

The Rise Up Foundation has joined in to spread awareness of substance and drug abuse. “Each day we witness how they grow and develop. It is still a long journey to recovery for most of them but we believe that with the help of God these people at the shelter will be reintegrated with their families.”

For Hanneke van Linge, who runs the Nosh food rescue programme in Johannesburg, it is a relief that restaurants that have been closed since the lockdown are beginning to open up their kitchens, where food can be prepared for the needy.

“Chefs are offering their services and restaurants are allowing us to use their facilities,” she said.

According to Van Linge, her organisation delivers food to 30 beneficiaries — mostly shelters, feeding schemes and soup kitchens that prepare meals feeding more than 1,000 people.

Food Flow SA, which puts small-scale farmers in contact with restaurants, has now turned to connecting these farmers to nongovernmental organisations.

Through their network they ask people to sponsor baskets of fresh produce, so the small-scale farmers are also able to still get an income.

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