KZN sugarcane farmers rally to counter lockdown hunger
Sugarcane farmers on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast join hands to help alleviate growing hunger in the region, saying they expect the crisis to not only deepen but persist for months to come.
Sezela sugarcane growers have earmarked R600 000 for food donations to support families feeling the impact of South Africa’s COVID-19 lockdown while land restitution farmers have distributed hundreds of food parcels in their communities.
Commercial and smallscale sugarcane farmers have banded together on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast in a bid to 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 have 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 about three weeks ago.
“We decided that in these exceptional and extra-ordinary times we would use funds from our ‘war chest’ to make a meaningful and substantial contribution towards the alleviation of the growing hunger among 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.
Over 355 people have so far received the coupons and all have been redeemed.
The association intends to distribute a series of eCoupons in coming months as the impact of the pandemic deepens in these rural areas.
SA Canegrowers’ Board member and a smallscale sugarcane grower on the South coast, Rejoice Ncwane said the eCoupons and food parcels were a lifeline for those who had 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. Also, the water supply that used to come daily to many areas only comes twice a week now. Asking our communities to wash their hands regularly is just not possible. They don’t have enough water. And they don’t have money to buy masks,” Ncwane said.
She said home invasions were also on the increase as some turned to crime to get income to feed their families.
Boxer Stores’ Marketing: Digital Supervisor Jade Skinner said 13 large businesses had bought big batches of the eCoupons with some individuals getting them for their domestic workers. Since the beginning of April, said Skinner, 2 100 eCoupons had been issued by the group.
“The eCoupons are a great way to receive a cash equivalent to buy groceries and they can be redeemed at any of our stores nationwide,” Skinner said.
The Sezela Canegrowers Association has also spent R60 000 on 4 500 face masks which the association is distributing to their members, including smallscale, 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 f 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 and to whom we are extremely grateful. Boxer Stores has been unbelievably helpful - we have dealt with the most wonderful and special people,” Koekemoer said
Rural communities on the KwaZulu-Natal South coast receive food parcels donated by land restitution communities, while others redeemed eCoupons at Boxer Stores which were donated by the Sezela Cane Growers’ Association.