Over the last number of years, a lot has happened in the world and certainly in South Africa. Since 1994 the much-needed process of upliftment and equalisation got underway across the full spectrum. From sport to commerce, education, and farming.
Of course, this was, and still is, a learning curve, causing uncertainties and stress. In the sense of farming, it soon became apparent that the new generation emerging black farmers were serious to become commercially successful farmers.
They didn’t expect or ask for any hand-outs but were open to getting help. Be it from established farmers, farmer-partners, the Department of Agriculture, or donors. They listened and they learnt, grateful for the opportunity to work the earth until it bears fruit. Season by season these new farmers became old hands, going from strength to strength.
And then, along came Covid-19, figuratively and literally upsetting the apple cart, grinding the world almost to a total stop. But not the farmers. Donning masks and sanitising hands, they carried on producing. Because without food, the world will really end.
Going in lockdown saves lives. But saving lives means sacrifices. The worst of all is the huge hit on the economy. There are so many people out there who never had it very good. Now it is getting worse. It seems that nobody can really do anything about ridding the world of this novel coronavirus, but a lot can be done to rid people of hunger.
In response to the call by President Cyril Ramaphosa for organisations to contribute towards Covid-19 relief interventions, a spark of an idea got the transformation division of Hortgro, the Deciduous Fruit Development Chamber’s (DFDC) CEO Dr Thembi Xaba, the chairman, Ismail Motala, as well as representatives of the African Farmers of South Africa (AFASA) and the Western Province Department of Agriculture together in a virtual stay safe think scrum. In no time a host of farmers pledged to get on board, paying it forward with their fruit.
The contributors are Klein Ezeljacht, Protea Farms, Klipfontein Farms, D&M Packhouse, Motata Farming, Wolseley Fruit Packers, Witzenberf Emerging Farmers, Elandsrivier Farms, Merino Farms, Trevor’s Farm, Core Export Company, La Vouere Farm and Kaapschon Farms.
The date for the project was set for 23 April 2020 at 14h00. Venue: Derich Priga’s D&M Marketing packhouse on Klipfontein Farm, Vyeboom. The contribution: 12 tons of fresh fruit packed into 12 000 bags to be distributed to the hungry and the homeless.
“While this intervention may not address all the socio-economic conditions that the country is faced with, it serves as the initial platform for future engagements with like-minded partners on how to better respond to a disaster as a collective,” Dr Thembi Xaba said.
It was awesome to see the enthusiasm and eagerness of the small number of delegates congregating at D&M Packhouse. All adhering to social distancing and wearing masks.
Ismail Motala thanked the people for coming and for respecting the regulations. “We recognize our role as black producers in our country. The farmers of the DFDC are thinking beyond the bank account but also thinking about our country; the future of our people. It is critical at this time. Our country has been there for us over the last 25 years. We have become privileged. Now it is time to give back to those who are not,” he said.
Adding to Ismail’s message, Dr Mogale Sebopetsa, Head of the Western Cape Department of Agriculture said: “The Western Cape Department of Agriculture welcomes this donation by the DFDC. This will go a long way in addressing the food and nutrition security challenges facing our community. Remember, the time is always right to do the right thing. A number of these contributing farmers have been supported by the Department and it’s exciting to see them now giving back to communities. We are indeed better together.”
Another key player in this unique event is Gift of the Givers. The Foundation is the largest disaster response non-governmental organisation of African origin on the African continent. The essence of their existence is to bring hope and restore dignity to the most vulnerable. It all started 30 years ago when Dr Imtiaz Sooliman had a calling and left his medical practice in Turkey, returning to South Africa to head to the calling. Gift of the Givers has to date managed R2,8 million in aid in 43 African countries.
No cry for need is too big or small for them one realised as the neat truck pulled into the despatch area of D&M’s packhouse. Time was of the essence and everybody got to work immediately. The Gift of the Givers guys started cleaning the inside of the truck. Chairman Ismael Motala gave a hand by clearing old wrappers from the truck. Everybody was scuttling around keeping their distance. Masked forklift drivers zoomed around loading multi-layered boxes of apples and pears. Voiced instructions were muffled by masks. Everything resembled a scene from some kind of Stephen King disaster movie. But it was no movie…
This unique event started at 14h00. Just over an hour later the talking and walking were done. The truck was ready to roll. Time is important. Time is money. But also, the less time together, the better to protect oneself against Covid-19.
As the truck disappeared in a cloud of dust, a small group of farmers watched it leave, standing respectfully not too close together, although they would have loved to shake hands. Inside that truck was a piece of everyone’s soul. The fruit of their labour.
Food in the time of Corona.
Caption: Paying it forward, from left: Ismail Motala (DFDC), Ekraam Omar (Gift of the Givers), Derich Priga (D&M Marketing) and Dr Mogale Sebopetsa (Western Cape Department of Agriculture).