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Midlands farmers organise food parcels to save lives

By Duncan Guy Apr 25, 2020

The Independent on Saturday

Durban – A farmer’s shed near Howick has been transformed into a warehouse in which volunteers roll up their sleeves to pack food parcels for needy people in the area.

Local businesses have donated money and farmers have given enough food to feed 5000 households of four people for a week at a time, Matt Hogarty, the organiser of the Umgeni Relief Network, told the Independent Saturday.

“The standard food parcel is maize, samp, beans, toilet paper, sugar, salt and cooking oil. Farmers have generously donated things like potatoes and spinach,” he said.

Distribution began yesterday.

Among the beneficiaries are residents of the informal settlement, Shiyabazali, visible from the viewing platform at Howick Falls, and where many people live hand-to-mouth on what they earn each day – as car guards, garbage pickers and informal traders – Hogarty explained.

He said the network liaised with every ward councillor in the uMngeni Municipality, to identify the most needy people and find out what they most needed.

Farmer Bobby Hoole added that with the co-operation of government agencies, recipients were being vetted to ensure that they were not receiving grants and that all nationalities were included. Many Lesotho nationals live in the Howick area.

He said the initiative began more than a week ago when farm and land owners collaborated to help an existing feeding scheme that was struggling.

Later, they teamed up with the government departments and a joint operations committee was established.

Sandy la Marque, chief executive of KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu), praised farmers’ efforts, saying they had put aside their personal struggles, in providing assistance to rural communities with food parcels, seedling and other products.

“It is imperative that the economic environment needs to provide better security to farmers, to continue producing food and participating positively in the economic revival of South Africa,” she said.

The Howick initiative follows others in the province, also involving farmers, in Ixopo, Kokstad, Mount Currie, Mooi River, Hluhluwe and Eston, according to Kwanalu.