Home News 101 agri leaders on being 101 days into lockdown

101 agri leaders on being 101 days into lockdown

A view on Mzansi's developing 'new normal' from leaders in our diverse agriculture sector

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Congratulations, South Africa. If you’re reading this, you’ve made it to day 101 of our unprecedented covid-19 lockdown. This is the stuff that history is made of. Today it is exactly 101 days since pres. Cyril Ramaphosa first told us to stay home in a desperate attempt to try and protect us from covid-19.

It hasn’t been easy, to be honest. One hundred and one days are a pretty long time to be locked down with your loved ones, although it is even more challenging if you’re on your own. The last 101 days have already partially collapsed our economy, and we’re engulfed in an avalanche of unemployment, hunger, gender-based violence, gang wars, attacks on the farming community and other crime.

The lockdown has changed every fiber of our being. Many of us feel pushed beyond the imaginable, while others are simply trying to make it through another day.

South Africa has already clocked nearly 188 000 confirmed coronavirus infections – and our minister of health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, is telling us straight-up that at least 60% of us will eventually be infected. Let that sink in for a moment. If needs be, please read that sentence again.

Food For Mzansi co-founders Ivor Price and Kobus Louwrens.

Last year, Statistics South Africa estimated our population at 58,78 million people. In other words, according to scientific predictions, at least 35 million of us will eventually get covid-19. That’s a scary figure. To put that into further perspective, it equates to the combined population of seven of our nine provinces.

We can’t help but wonder: are we next? How long will it be before covid-19 comes knocking on our door? Will we survive? Or will we join the ever-growing death toll which, as of last night, stood at more than 3 000. We simply do not know. That’s just how life works, we guess. We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the game.

That being said, at Food For Mzansi we have been privileged to have a front-row seat in witnessing extraordinary acts of kindness during the last 101 days. We’ve personally been involved in efforts to support the needy, albeit on a small scale. We’re honoured to take the lead from, among others, the agricultural community who continues to go above and beyond to support millions of South Africans in their hour of need.

#TeamFoodForMzansi spoke to no less than 101 agri movers and shakers to simply hear how the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has altered their lives. In many ways, their reflections are also representative of all our lives. Please stay safe out there and be kind to each other. One day, we’ll look back and say, “Hey, this crisis made us stronger and happier. And we used it to create a healthier, fairer future through a just recovery.”


101 agri thought leaders speak to Food For Mzansi

Source: Twitter
Thoko Didiza, the minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development. Photo: DALRRD

1. Thoko Didiza, minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development

Though one does not know when we will find a lasting solution to the covid-19 pandemic, we will need to ensure that the sector continues to protect itself and its workforce. We also need to ensure that we do not lose our agricultural calendar. We need to invest in the sector, much more than we had before to ensure that as a country we can remain food secure. More importantly, we need to ensure that we deepen transformation in the sector and open new growth lungs that will increase our productive base.


Christo van der Rheede, the deputy executive director of Agri SA.
Christo van der Rheede of Agri SA.

2. Christo van der Rheede, deputy executive director of Agri SA

I am certainly a changed man after 101 days of lock down. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine that a virus could wreak such social and economic havoc. My biggest worry now is the destructive impact it continues to have on the economy. The economy forms the backbone of our survival as a nation, and as a species. My mission now is to contribute constructively to help save the economy, and to never take sound economic principles for granted.


Grain SA chief executive officer Jannie De Villiers.
Grain SA CEO Jannie de Villiers.

3. Jannie de Villiers, CEO of Grain SA

Agriculture has done exceptionally well to ensure food production kept on going. The value chain, similarly, has done well to keep the shelves stocked. Initially the lockdown forced both government and the private sector to cooperate as we had a common goal. That was refreshing. I dreamt of how our country could move forward if we could deal similarly with issues, such as land reform and economic growth. Unfortunately, the dream ended. The same rhetoric kicked in and the same old approaches divided us, once again. Yet, covid-19 teaches me that we can actually work together and solve difficulties to benefit all – if the common goal is clear enough.


Vuyo Mahlati of AFASA
Vuyo Mahlati, the president of Afasa.

4. Dr Vuyo Mahlati, president of Afasa

It has been an emotional rollercoaster, on a very personal level, with fear, anxiety, and dealing with the loss of loved ones. At the same time, I have grown an appreciation of the resilience of the human spirit and immense solidarity. Seeing Afasa farmers from particularly the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga sharing their hard-earned produce and livestock with the needy after a destructive drought was quite heart-warming. As the economy faces recession, we appreciate the positive result of the agricultural sector’s resilience, but we remain focused on the task ahead of the inequalities at production levels and value chains and the vulnerability of farm workers. The Land Bank crisis at such a sensitive time is a reminder of the structural faults that need urgent change.


Dr John Purchase, Agbiz CEO
Dr John Purchase, the CEO of Agbiz.

5. Dr Johan Purchase, CEO of Agbiz

The pandemic has, again, made me mindful of the extraordinary power of nature and the critical focus we need to direct at being responsible stewards of the earth and its resources in producing food for an ever-growing population. More than ever, I feel privileged and blessed to work in the agro-food system, and to have been trained as an agricultural scientist. And so, while we tend to take too many things, including food, for granted, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures have instilled a greater sense of understanding that too many families are food insecure. We simply need to do more to bring more people into the mainstream economy, so that they have both physical and economic access to food. A real challenge!


Fhumulani Ratshitanga is the CEO of Fruit SA.

6. Fhumulani Ratshitanga, CEO of Fruit South Africa

Only four or five months ago, most of us would have never imagined life and the world as it is today. The lockdown and its effects have shown that, indeed, in life “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. None of us were spared of making many difficult changes to the way we live and interact with one another. On the upside, this period has forced us to go back to the basics and concern ourselves with things that really matter in life.

 


Koos van Rensburg, VKB’s managing director.
Koos van Rensburg, VKB’s managing director.

7. Koos van Rensburg, the managing director of the VKB Group

Everyone working in agriculture can count themselves lucky. People have to eat, and despite the covid-19 restrictions, food production and security have been high on the agenda of all governments during this lockdown. Unfortunately, this does not mean agriculture was left unscathed, and we still have loads to figure out in the days ahead. Covid-19 hit us in ways we least expected it, like the closure of the fast food restaurants that suddenly changed the demand for steak, chicken and potatoes. To the contrary, as people are coming to terms with poor cash flow, there has been an increase in staple food consumption. The oil industry has been hit hardest as people around the world stopped flying. This resulted in an overproduction in oil causing the oil price to fall. And with the US using loads of vegetable oil for diesel and petrol production, it also weighed down the markets for vegetable oils along with crude oil to levels we haven’t seen in a long time. Downstream, this impacts a million other things. We simply do not yet know what the new normal is supposed to mean. What is the new normal price for commodities, such as maize, soya and wheat? What will be the future price of fuel or oil? When will people be ready to eat out or fly again? When will they be ready to go on holiday again? The new normal is still very unsure, but it certainly isn’t a doomsday scenario. Uncertainty gives birth to new opportunity, and those with a nose for it, will realise many of these new opportunities. We’ll have to adjust, re-evaluate, re-strategise constantly. We might just emerge stronger than we’ve been ever before.


Dr Sifiso Ntombela, chief economist at the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC).
Dr Sifiso Ntombela, chief economist at the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC).

8. Dr Sifiso Ntombela, chief economist at the National Agricultural Marketing Council

It simply isn’t good enough to say South Africa is food secured at a national level when millions of South Africans cannot access and afford food on a daily basis. One hundred and one days of lockdown has offered agricultural role players – in government, business and labour – an opportunity to honestly reflect on structural issues constraining food availability, access and affordability. I witnessed some leaders and industry captains rising above narrow interests to put Mzansi’s interests first and acknowledge that a meaningful and genuine private-public partnership remains the best model to resolve our challenges. On a global scale, we also, once again, learnt that protecting livelihoods outweighs profit maximisation.


Hennie Bruwer of Cotton SA
Hennie Bruwer of Cotton SA

9. Hennie Bruwer, CEO of Cotton SA

After a few months of being confined at home, one wonders how much things really have changed in the workplace. Regular meetings and events still occur. The only real difference is that we are no longer in each other’s physical presence, but engaging virtually. Overnight everybody’s lives changed, but has it really? The question can now rightfully be asked, are we going to return to the lives we lived before the coronavirus? Is this not already what modern life out there appears to be like? Despite all the covid-19 related challenges, in the era of impersonal connections simple one-on-one interactions with people will now be of even greater importance. Given the availability and reliability of local remote technology, I do believe the physical office environment will remain with us for the foreseeable future in this quickly evolving world.


Najwa Allie-Edries, deputy director-general of employment facilitation for the Jobs Fund.

10. Najwa Allie-Edries, deputy director-general of employment facilitation for the Jobs Fund

From an economic perspective, the resultant global recession has compelled many countries to roll out support packages to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Closed borders also led to a greater preference for local products and services, creating a need for resilience across supply chains and bringing sourcing closer to end markets. At the same time, organisationally speaking, companies have had to reimagine their business models for a fundamentally changed landscape. Social distancing has accelerated digitisation and the adoption of digital solutions with increased on-line and remote work causing a shift in expectations and workplace culture. It has also affected how we shop and eat, and is causing a move to higher levels of e-commerce. Both organisations and individuals will need to focus on the development of digital and cognitive capabilities, social and emotional skills and adaptability. Resilience will be the employment currency of the future. What we will see more of, is organisations moving towards small, nimble teams, matching the right talent to critical challenges, and a premium on results versus how many hours were spent working. Governments are using this unprecedented time as an opportunity to re-think city planning and to reshape transit transportation. The economic effects of lockdown have also amplified the deep inequalities present, and governments will need to be more responsive in their efforts to build social cohesion. At an individual level, the way in which we connect to the world has changed forever. We are finding opportunity in making and doing things from scratch for ourselves, being more conscious of nurturing the human relationships we have, and tapping in to our creative self.


Dr Naude Malan. Photo: Funiwe Ngwenya / Food For Mzansi

11. Dr Naudé Malan, academic, founder of iZindaba Zokudla and newly-appointed board member of the Agricultural Research Council

I entered the lockdown with a bad back injury and had to forgo all ideas about building a deep trench garden. I remember my sister phoning me and warning me about food scarcities and hunger. She urged me to tell everyone to start their own vegetable gardens. I thought it rather alarmist, and that lockdown would pass and that we should rather act in a more reasoned way. This all came to an end when a video of queues at the Mooiplaas informal settlement in Centurion, Gauteng did the rounds. I realised my foolishness. By that time, the first radishes would have been harvested already, tomatoes would be starting to fruit and one would have been able to eat the first leaves of spinach had we planted them at the beginning of lockdown. At that moment I realised that it is the little things that change the world!


Ntando Shadrack Sibisi, chairperson and founder of the Black Tobacco Farmers Association.

12. Ntando Shadrack Sibisi, chairperson and founder of the Black Tobacco Farmers Association

The lockdown has been devastating, especially for farming communities in the tobacco industry. The harvesting season is approach us in August, but I don’t know whether we will still be relevant because the tobacco market was closed 101 days ago. In the last 101 days, I personally haven’t earned a cent yet the illicit cigarette trade is flourishing with 100% of the market share. It doesn’t add anything to the economy, and tobacco farmers might be destitute for the rest of our lives. There seems to be private agendas at play. If you refuse the legal sale of tobacco products, but allow the illicit trade to run riot, who are you really assisting?


The founder of the Future Farmers Foundation, Judy Stuart. Photo: Inyathelo

13. Judy Stuart, the founder of the Future Farmers Foundation

The lockdown has led to a significantly enhanced sense of commitment amongst people working on farms. People appreciate the efforts being made by the farmers to keep them safe, and are understanding the importance of their role in food production. Many farm workers feel safe in the farm environment. This will lead to positive changes in attitudes that will last long after the pandemic has passed. Many people are still not taking lockdown seriously, though, congregating in public places and generally not observing the recommended protocols. For the farmers and their staff, there is much to lose and they are stepping up to the plate. Agriculture has nearly always been taken for granted. Maybe this lockdown will bring some focus to the importance of our agricultural community. South Africa can be self-sufficient. It could produce all the food that it needs, and it may be wrong to assume that if we don’t have food, we will be able to import food and pay for it. As an example, the Great Yorkshire Agricultural Show will hold a virtual agricultural show this month. It‘s free to attend and there is a wide variety of events on offer. We could all learn from this, and it has not taken them long to adapt and change their thinking. We too can do this.


North West Agriculture MEC Desbo Mohono
North West Agriculture MEC, Desbo Mohono.

14. Desbo Mohono, MEC for agriculture and rural development in North West

As an essential service, agriculture continues to play an instrumental role during the covid-19 lockdown. We need to ensure that food security and the availability of food products are not compromised. Food must be available for all. As a department, we assisted with relief funding to ensure that farmers continue to produce even during this difficult time. To help stop further spread of the virus, we also provided farmers and their workers with personal protective equipment to help keep them safe while they’re working to feed the nation.


Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers Association. Photo: CGA

15. Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers Association

I will never take anything for granted again, even the small things like meeting a friend for coffee, dinner in a restaurant or visiting friends and family. I have learned to be more appreciative. Unfortunately, the pandemic has widened the gap between those who have and those who have not. I am just fortunate to be in the essential food sector – and there in a position to help those who are less fortunate. This economy will take a while to recover. The value of time has been reinforced. Pre-lockdown I was travelling flat out, being away from home every week. New technologies show this is not necessary, and buys time to instead do the important stuff.


Free State MEC of agriculture and land reform, William Bulwane.

16. William Bulwane, MEC for agriculture and rural development in the Free State

In many ways, the coronavirus lockdown forced food producers to be more innovative to meet market demands despite the fact that they were also forced to reduce labour as a result of the economic pinch being felt. Food prices hiked and made it difficult for rural households to afford what they used to be able to afford with their income before the coronavirus lockdown.


Dirk Krapohl, operations manager for Agri Northern Cape. Photo: Supplied

17. Dirk Krapohl, operations manager for Agri Northern Cape

I can still vividly remember when the country reported its very first covid-19 infection. It took us a while to come to terms with what that mean. After the second month of the lockdown, you get quite used to empty shops and deserted city centres, normally bustling with people. So, too, have face masks, hand sanitisers and social distancing become the new normal. The lockdown has made all of us realise the importance of ensuring our nation’s food security. Empty shelves can be frightening, but empty fields and barns can be devastating. In our province we are still suffering from the effects of a severe drought and some regions still battling it. This pandemic was the final blow for some of our farmers, but yet they still do whatever it takes to ensure food security for our nation. The coronavirus has also emphasised the importance of the agricultural sector and its potential to support economic growth, create and sustain jobs and boost exports.


Adversity has not stopped Maluleke from reaching for the stars.
Ikageng Maluleke, agricultural economist with Grain SA.

18. Ikageng Maluleke, agricultural economist at Grain SA

The lockdown has to be the biggest disruption in my life, thus far. A time where I have been forced to slow down and actually reflect on many things. I’ve come to appreciate the little things in life that I took for granted, like a walk in the park, dinner at a restaurant or a weekend with my grandparents. It has also helped me to recharge and to think of innovative ways to keep busy. Instead of panicking, I’ve decided to develop myself through online short courses, webinars and reading books I could previously never get around to. Lockdown has also helped me to gain clarity through simplicity. I have used this time to keep in touch with family and friends, journaling and exercising. I have grown spiritually and I am grateful for life, health and my loved ones. In the agricultural space, technology helped to keep the conversation going and stakeholders engaged in trying to come up with workable solutions during this time. This pandemic has highlighted the need for agricultural role players across the food value chain to adopt technology in order to enhance supply chains and access more opportunities locally and regionally. Covid-19 has shown how critical multi-stakeholder collaborations are for maintaining food systems. We can absorb shocks through cross border coordination, because when markets are functional, farmers are willing to produce. We need solidarity between continents, between African countries and within a countries’ private and public sectors in order to fight this pandemic and to revive economies post the pandemic.


Dawie Maree from FNB.

19. Dawie Maree, head of information and marketing at FNB Agriculture

We thought that the impact on agriculture would be small because we produce food and people have to eat. However, some industries were heavily affected, such as wine and, even worse, hunting. But our farmers showed that even under challenging circumstances they will produce food for the nation. The big changes will come in the change in consumer demand and farmers will need to adapt to that, which I know they will. How we do business might have changed, but we’re still in business to produce food for the nation.


Kayalethu Sotsha, senior economist at the National Agricultural Marketing Council.

20. Kayalethu Sotsha, senior economist at the National Agricultural Marketing Council

One hundred and one days of lockdown changed my perceptions and appreciation for several aspects of life. Social distancing taught me to embrace technology as I work remotely. However, access to technology is a privilege, let alone the ability to use it. As such, it also presents the reality of inequality in our society from which I learnt to appreciate where I am and what I have, especially my source of livelihood. From a broader economic perspective, I believe South Africans need to shift their mindset away from economic development that is underlined by supporting and safe-guarding small and medium-sized enterprises and corporate institutions only. We need to create a conducive environment for people (both individuals and households) to self-employ, if they wish to do so. To achieve this requires a stable, firm and capable leadership.


Deidre Carter, CEO of Agri Limpopo.

21. Deidre Carter, CEO of Agri Limpopo

Being intimately involved in protecting the interests of our farmers, the lockdown has been a particularly busy period. I was burning the midnight oil ensuring that our farmers were familiar and compliant with the regulations and advocating for changes, where necessary. Personally, covid-19 has brought home the realisation as to how interdependent and fragile our existence as humanity is. Farmers have for generations performed good deeds within their communities, away from the glare of the media, but covid-19 most definitely placed our farmers under the spotlight for their warm-heartedness, sense of community and generosity at this time. We have adopted the stance that we may not be able to help everyone, but everyone can help someone. The pandemic is a classic example of the butterfly effect. The disruption in one aspect creates a domino effect on the rest of our complex system of global existence. This is a moment of epoch for each one of us, for agriculture and the world. The real question is: can we use the pandemic to make it a positive one?


Eric Mauwane managing director of Oneo Farms in Tarlton
Eric Mauwane of Oneo Farms.

22. Eric Mauwane, managing director of Oneo Farms near Tarlton, Gauteng

The first 101 days of lockdown showed exactly how important the agricultural sector is. It also reminded us that there are many issues that need to be addressed urgently. Greater job losses and the high unemployment rate means that more and more people are going hungry every day. That is why food security needs to be addressed – not just in South Africa, but in the entire world. The lockdown has made me more aware of my role as a farmer in this pertinent issue.


Jannie Strydom, CEO of Agri Western Cape.

23. Jannie Strydom, CEO of Agri Western Cape

Covid-19 and its regulations have caught everyone off guard, but the past 101 days have proven, once again, that the agricultural sector in the Western Cape is resilient in the face of adversity. To successfully continue with sustainable food production while managing such an enormous, unprecedented challenge is no small feat. We salute our farmers and workers who are doing just that. Covid-19 has also highlighted the crucial and indispensable role of organised agriculture in looking after the best interest of the agricultural sector during crisis times.


Lunathi Hlakanyane, an agricultural economist with Stellenbosch University. Picture: Supplied

24. Lunathi Hlakanyane, agricultural economist at Stellenbosch University

The past 101 days of lockdown have thrust up a revelatory mirror on social and economic systems worldwide. For the better part, it has revealed our strengths, and for the worst part, our stark fragilities. Though social distance has kept us physically apart, the crisis has, for lack of irony, brought the world closer together through enhanced solidarity and a greater sense of common purpose. However, it has also revealed and indeed exacerbated massive inequality in societies across the globe. On the economic front, the past 101 days have seen brick-and-mortar business nudged into obsoletism as online platforms became the norm for social interactions and trading.


Koos van der Ryst, chairperson of the Red Meat Producers Organisation.

25. Koos van der Ryst, chairperson of the Red Meat Producers Organisation 

More than a million households in South Africa own livestock and during this time the red meat industry continues to play a vital role in both income and food security, especially in rural areas. In that sense, the lockdown was good for us as an industry because red meat panic-buying grew the demand for our product. There is also a perception that red meat is helpful in terms of a healthy immune system. The lockdown taught us that family time and values are precious. Slow food became more popular and the family dinner became the main attraction of the day. Also, if we look at the global warming challenges, it is now very clear that the transport industry is the real culprit and not agriculture.


Wendy Pienaar, chairperson of Craft Beer Association of South Africa.
Wendy Pienaar, chairperson of Craft Beer Association of South Africa.

26. Wendy Pienaar, chairperson of Craft Beer Association South Africa

The first 67 days of lockdown saw the complete prohibition on the sale of alcohol, which had a major impact on craft breweries and the broader industry. While the resumption of off-consumption sales from 1 June 2020, on specified days and for limited trading hours, provided a slight reprieve, 15% of breweries have already been forced to close their doors permanently. The future of many craft breweries remains unpredictable, and so we are calling on government to work with us to ensure our sector, which supports thousands of livelihoods and contributes towards a diverse, increasingly transformed local beer industry survives.


Operation Manager of Free State Agriculture Dr Jack Armour.

27. Dr Jack Armour, operations manager at Free State Agriculture

With social media and online entertainment often the only escape during covid-19, there’s been a divergence and convergence. The world at large has polarised more, yet excitingly, families and many local communities have found one-another at grassroots level. There has been a purification of thoughts, ideas and ideologies, taking us back to the basics in its purest form. In agriculture – which has been so blessed! – the conservation and now regenerative agriculture movements have gained momentum. Nutritional value and natural resilience are the new frontiers. Disaster relief has taken us to basic delivery through a quick market-based voucher system directly between the qualifying small-holder farmer and the legitimate agribusiness without all the complicated middlepersons and politics. At Agri SA, Agbiz, the Banking Association of South Africa, the national department of agriculture, rural development and land reform and even church think-tank level, basic financial support models are being debated where the production team and not only the land as collateral are the most important factors for granting finance. Productivity and growth are the targets and not only profit for the financing institution or budget to get spent for the state. The entire value chain food support programme is so encouraging.


Andile Ngoco yummy legs for days.
Andile Ngoco (26) manages the operations of Tusokuhle Farming in Pietermaritzburg.

28. Andile Ngcobo, manager at Tusokhule Farm in Pietermaritzburg

A hundred and one days of lockdown have been 101 days of confirmation that the life I live, chose me. The agricultural sector has not experienced a single day of lockdown. We were all in full swing in production and had to continue meeting the demands of one of the basic human needs: to eat. So, I have been witnessing a newfound love and respect for farmers not only in the country, but the world at large.


Wynand Espach of Agricolleges International
Wynand Espach of Agricolleges International

29. Wynand Espach, chief operations officer at Agricolleges International

Education remains a critical pillar that the world rests on for future leader development at all ages. Even agricultural education across the world will never be the same after covid-19. The way we learn, teach and interact, while developing our skills, has changed forever. Now it is time for the world to step up and secure our future by implementing and transforming to systems that can secure the safe roll-out of further educational systems, through both online and blended-learning models. This while retaining a healthy balance between theoretical and practical learning, as well as emotional and personal development. Challenge accepted. Let’s do it.


Thabile Nkunjana, an agricultural economist with the NAMC.

30. Thabile Nkunjana, an agricultural economist with the NAMC

A hundred and one days of lockdown has forced me to reflect on the small yet important things in life. I am no longer ignoring the important people in my life, my spouse, my kids and other people who play a crucial role. To my surprise, I learnt how little money I need to live reasonably. My monthly savings has increased during the lockdown. I’m done with buying things because they are fashionable. I’m going to effortlessly move away from any negative patterns, be it at home, work or publicly.


President of the Transvaal Agriculture Union, Louis Meintjes.
The president of TLU SA, Louis Meintjes.

31. Louis Meintjes, president of TLU SA

The first 101 days showed everyone that food production is still a priority, on the one hand, and people realise that because the sales of food went up that’s the reaction of the public towards agriculture. It also showed us that the government does not understand agriculture and they don’t see agriculture as a priority. That’s the realisation after 101 days of covid-19.


Dawn Noemdoe, editor of Food For Mzansi. Photo: Food For Mzansi

32. Dawn Noemdoe, editor of Food For Mzansi

Adjusting to life under lockdown has been really tough. I am, however, in a very privileged position to still be able to work remotely and do what I love daily. Keeping a very active two-year-old occupied for the past 101 days has kept me on my toes, but seeing him grow every day is so precious. Since the start of the pandemic, when videos of mass graves in other parts of the world were circulating, I knew I had to prepare for the worst, but as the virus creeps closer to home keeping my anxiety and fears at bay is not easy. It helps to think about the millions of people working on the frontline like the thousands of health professionals, our farmers and agricultural workers who have been working tirelessly throughout these unprecedented times to care for the sick and feed us.

 

Jaco Oosthuizen, CEO of RSA Group.
Jaco Oosthuizen, CEO of RSA Group.

33. Jaco Oosthuizen, CEO of the RSA Group

There are many ways in which the lockdown has changed me and how I value the simple things I used to take for granted. I can’t ever imagine the world being viewed through the lens that we had 101 days ago. From the very beginning we said that as a business our commitment was to do whatever we could to keep the fresh produce food supply chain open. The one thing that struck me deeply was the impact of shutting down the informal sector at the beginning of lockdown and how quickly that was reversed. No one will ever underestimate the importance of this sector on food security in this country ever again.


Siyabonga Mngoma, owns Abundance Wholesome Foods, selling organic fresh produce in Gauteng.
Siyabonga Mngoma, owns Abundance Wholesome Foods, selling organic fresh produce in Gauteng.

34. Siyabonga Mngoma, the founder of Abundance Wholesome Foods, 

I’m not sure if the lockdown has changed agriculture, but I think we have gained important insights. We can now work on making sure we change what’s not working and implement new strategies building better. I think the lockdown has made the world aware of what is really important in our lives. The 101 days of lockdown has helped me be more mindful and cultivate my intuition. Whereas last year was a rollercoaster ride, this year I promised myself to be more involved in what I do. The lockdown has helped me commit to the work of achieving the promise to myself. I’m now more aware of my needs and the projects I involve myself in. The lockdown has changed the way I approach most things, with consciousness and listening to the inner voice. It’s been a constant daily practice and I’m grateful to this challenging time, to have given me time of personal growth.


Zenzele Myeza, CEO of AgriSETA.

35. Zenzele Myeza, CEO of AgriSETA

Stats SA reported agriculture to be the highest performing sector at 27.8% in the first quarter of 2020. This in itself shows how important agriculture is to any nation. AgriSETA’s mandate is, of course in education, so our focus has been on embracing technology to ensure outreach to our stakeholders and to conduct research into new skills requirements that emanate from the covid-19 pandemic. Other methods to reach our learners in rural, urban and peri-urban contexts form part of our practical business continuity plans and now include a broad spectrum of mediums, which are being rolled out over the next few months.


Nick Serfontein of Sernick Group
Nick Serfontein, chairperson of the Sernick Group.

36. Nick Serfontein, chairperson of the Sernick Group

Since 2018, I have warned on numerous occasions that matters in South Africa are going to get much worse before they are going to get better. On exactly what basis I said that, I cannot say, but it happened to turn out that way. Today, we sit in a bankrupt country behind bars with a command council that irritates the hell out of us. I am not the most religious person in the world, but when I look and analyse what is happening to us, I experience a higher hand in all of this. I say to myself, “It had to happen and we have nothing to fear other than fear itself.” I also say to myself that agriculture is the sector where I want to play because our farmers, apart from all the health frontline workers, are the true heroes during these times. Cometh the hour, cometh the men.


Dr Ivan Meyer, the Western Cape Minister of Agriculture.

37. Dr Ivan Meyer, Western Cape minister of agriculture

We have developed extensive partnerships with farmers and commodity organisations within the agricultural sector. These partnerships support and develop eager minds to reach their full potential. In this way, more than a hundred youth are placed with farmers who act as host employers and mentors for workplace experience, with 120 agricultural graduate interns having also been placed on farms to gain workplace experience. Our youth remains our greatest asset, and it is encouraging to see how these young people are making a difference in the agricultural landscape. We will continue to invest in the youth.


Nico Groenewald, head of agriculture at Standard Bank.

38. Nico Groenewald, head of agriculture at Standard Bank

The lockdown emphasised the importance of food production and food security. Agriculture accepted this responsibility unconditionally. Specific focus was placed on more efficiency within value chains to ensure that the gap between farm gate and consumer table is not clogged up with disruptions. Contingencies were put in place. An Afrikaans saying, “‘n boer maak ’n plan (a farmer makes a plan)” might be applicable. Enhanced technology also took effect. We saw an increase in online auctions, marketing and sales.


Lucius Phaleng (29) works as an agricultural economist at the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC). One of the impressive things about his work is that he advises the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development on market access opportunities in the international markets.
Lucius Phalen from the NAMC.

39. Lucius Phaleng, agricultural economist at the National Agricultural Marketing Council

As an agricultural economist, the lockdown has taught me that I don’t always have to be at the office to get the job done. Meetings can be held remotely. I actually like this now. It is a much better way. The first 101 days of lockdown has made me think about the benefits of working from home for us as nation and the world. We should be doing this, with or without a pandemic. It becomes harder to switch off, though, and we will have to learn to balance our personal and work lives.


Prof. Ruth Hall from PLAAS.

40. Prof. Ruth Hall, Institute of Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape

We now face the prospect that the informal sector will suffer a massive setback, further pushing large numbers of people out of economic activity and into desperate poverty and lethal hunger, while further consolidating corporate domination in South Africa’s food system. The prospects of people returning to economic activity afterwards may be slim. One real and frightening possibility is that the stresses and strains of an out-of-control public health disaster stretch South Africa’s already fragile social contract to breaking point, leading to a new, much more nakedly elitist political fix, with state and military resources shoring up the interests of a small, urban middle class, and the abandonment of even the pretence of a pro-poor governing coalition.


Barbra Muzata of Corteva Agriscience
Barbra Muzata of Corteva Agriscience.

41. Barbra Muzata, communications and brand leader for Africa Middle East at Corteva Agriscience

Lockdown has not changed the role of agriculture, but rather accelerated some trends. Agriculture has become the new gold. If people were previously not convinced of the key role it plays in enabling food security, now they are. This is the time to invest more resources in agriculture. Companies, employees, farmers and consumers have gone digital to communicate, trade and interact. Everyone is still adapting to the covid-19 lockdown and increasingly using digital technologies – demonstrating the human being’s ability to adapt to change. Agriculture has reached a crossroad, and the way we work, access and deliver to the market will never be the same.


Grobank CEO Bennie van Rooy. Photo: Supplied

42. Bennie van Rooy, CEO of Grobank

The world has been changed in remarkable and unrecognisable ways. Decades from now, we’ll have a new BC and AC – before and after covid-19. We had to find new ways of working and communicating. New jargon is used, such as hand sanitisers and social distancing. Lockdown, panic buying, no traffic, closure of markets and schools have all become part of our daily routine and vocabulary. I am convinced that we will become more resilient and stronger. We’ll learn to appreciate the things that we took for granted and will be more innovative. A new normal will be defined and we have to adapt.


Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela (Owner of Brewster Craft in Roodepoort, Johannesburg) is South Africa’s first female black brewer to own a brewery and she's giving new meaning to the term umqombothi.
Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela

43. Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela, brew master and founder of Brewsters Craft

When the lockdown was initially announced, I never thought 101 days later we would still be in it. I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t been changed by the lockdown, either in a positive or not so positive manner. It has given me time and space in the typical busy life of an entrepreneur to pause and re-group. I used the lockdown, especially the initial stricter phase, to review my company’s strategy. I was also able to get many things done that I never had the time for. On a personal note, it allowed for more family time, time to rebuild relationships and to re-connect with distant family and friends.


Bayer’s commercial operations lead in South Africa, Kobus Steenekamp.

44. Kobus Steenekamp, Bayer’s commercial operations lead for the crop science division

The first 101 days of lockdown has led to the speeding-up innovation and implementation of new ways to conduct business and interact with clients and other stakeholders. We will continue our passion for agriculture and sustainable food production.

 

 


John Hudson, national head of agriculture at Nedbank.

45. John Hudson, national head of agriculture at Nedbank

We talk about black swan events and how as a business, or as an individual, we try and plan for such events. The reality, however, is that sometimes it feels like you have been hit by a brick and stopped dead in your tracks. This is what covid-19 felt like for me with very mixed emotions, in particular trying to make sense of the dilemma between lives and livelihoods. Thank goodness for digital platforms, from Zooming clients to business and family WhatsApp groups, I have managed to stay connected and, in reality, this was the only way for me to continue working. The drive towards digitisation has been a revelation and I have no doubt that we’ll be technology dependant for the long haul. I do worry, though, that the lines between home and work have been blurred. I think we will need to think carefully about which platforms we use and what we say on them. Notwithstanding the drive towards digitisation and the benefits that go with this, I am really looking forward to getting out there and seeing clients on farm. I love working in the agricultural sector. It has heart, soul and passion and this has been no more evident than over the past 101 days. The sector has truly come together, both government and private, and we need to harness this goodwill and positiveness as we tackle the challenges that lie ahead. Finally, I also feel I also feel that while many of us hope for a return to business as usual, it’s not going to happen.


Chikondi Dlamini, agricultural engineer at EVN Africa Consulting Services.

46. Chikondi Dlamini, agricultural engineer at EVN Africa Consulting Services

My work setup changed drastically in the first few weeks of the lockdown. I transitioned from being a permanently employed agricultural engineer to a freelance consultant. I had to set up a home office and pivot into being a service provider while helping my child master online schooling. My former employer is now one of my clients as I run their projects to completion. Although challenging, the surge in webinars and companies pivoting online has brought a unique opportunity for development and restructuring traditional career trajectories. Each lockdown day has challenged me to assess if there are more ways for me to add value.


Cobus Roode, a soil scientist and director of Fepa Sechaba Agri Solutions.

47. Cobus Roode, soil scientist, plant nutritionist and director of Integra Trust

The biggest lockdown change has been the need to produce more nutrient-dense and healthy food to maintain and/or boost our immune systems. If this is under pressure, we are more vulnerable and exposed to be easily infected by the coronavirus. This poses a big threat to our society and economy and places additional pressure on our health provision and systems. The lockdown highlighted the existing inequalities, even in agriculture. We produce enough food as a country, but it is not affordable and accessible for most people. In this regard, government’s policy to be the only supplier of food to people in need was the biggest negative game-changer in agriculture to the detriment and demise of the survivability of our people. In the end, we have enough food, and people may be protected by the availability of food. We see the opposite where our people die of hunger induced by an incapable, bureaucratic system.


Bongiwe Sithole-Molo

48. Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi, MEC for agriculture in KwaZulu-Natal

Our department has not been that deeply affected. As per Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa’s instruction, we had to keep operations going to ensure food security. We have also provided farmers across the province with sanitisers, especially our small-scale farmers, at no cost. Unfortunately, we had to let some of our non-essential staff members go.


Dr Hendrik Smith, Grain SA’s conservation agriculture facilitator. Photo: Supplied

49. Dr Hendrik Smith, Grain SA’s conservation agriculture facilitator and Integra Trust director

The lockdown motivated me to connect on a deeper level with myself, others (especially my family) and with nature (specifically in our garden). There has been a deeper awareness about agriculture’s impact on nature, especially soil, and how it affects food quality and human health. Fortunately, we have also become aware of ways to improve our impact, which is through regenerative agriculture. Weak or unsustainable links in the agricultural value chain have been exposed and will need to be repaired by innovative solutions. There is certainly a much greater awareness on human health and factors affecting it, such as environmental health and our connection with it, relationships, food quality and diet, exercise and spiritual practices.


Limpopo goat farmer Emmanuel Mudau.

50. Emmanuel Mudau, indigenous goat farmer from Makhado, Limpopo 

The first 101 days of lockdown had a severe financial impact. I normally sell goats over the Easter holiday when many people have traditional ceremonies. That is where I lost money, because it was cancelled. I also sell goats for other traditional and cultural events, but because they did not happen I could not sell them and get an income.


World Farmers Organisation president Theo De Jager. Photo: Supplied.

51. Dr Theo de Jager, president of the World Farmers Organisation

A hundred and one days of lockdown, which has hit more than half of all countries and severely disrupted markets and value chains, brought with it some exciting opportunities and positive implications too. The world could not have appointed a more efficient digitalisation manager than covid-19. Markets, communication, mandating, meetings, advocacy and shopping all went from “having heard or read about it“, to everyone being seasoned experts on it. This can be a great equalizer, levelling playing fields if we push for the interests of family farmers. But it may also lead to more inequality, and concentration of capital and power if we don’t.


Prof. Bongani Ndimba, senior manager and director of Infruitec-Nietvoorbij Institute of the Agricultural Research Council.

52. Prof. Bongani Ndimba, senior manager and director of Infruitec-Nietvoorbij Institute of the Agricultural Research Council

The Agricultural Research Council is the foundation, the wall, the roof and the furniture of the South African food production system. During the current agricultural master plan consultations, minister Thoko Didiza and her deputy, Mcebisi Skwatsha, have put the ARC in the centre as the solid glue that connects and binds the link between research, technology and skills transfer that will guarantee the genuine and sustainable transformation of the agricultural sector in South Africa. This is the only way we survived this pandemic up to now, and inclusive growth will ensure endurance of our sovereign food security for another 101 years and beyond.


Uzair Essack is the founder and managing director of CapeCrops.

53. Uzair Essack, founder and managing director of CapeCrops

A hundred and one days of lockdown has made me more grateful and appreciative of the simpler things in life. Visiting my parents and grandparents, spending my birthday with some friends, eating at my favourite restaurant and simply being outdoors were such normal activities until lockdown arrived. Once the lockdown passes and I am able to do these activities freely again, I will cherish them even more. I will savour the moments and I will make every second count. A hundred and one days of lockdown has taught me that life is a privilege and that maximizing that privilege is the way to true happiness.


Errieda du Toit is a food writer, author and culinary commentator. Photo: Ian du Toit

54. Errieda du Toit, food writer, author and culinary commentator 

The lockdown has made me aware of everything that I have taken for granted. A lot of that has to do with how many people supply to my life. I became acutely aware of the interdependence and the interconnectedness between us all. Even shopping is not just a thing that you can just do anymore. You have to be aware. Everything that I decide to put on my shopping list is a conscious decision, how I look at the things that I have bought has sharpened my awareness of how things are connected.


Food for Mzansi journalist Noluthando Ngcakani.

55. Noluthando Ngcakani, Food For Mzansi journalist

Since December last year when reports of the outbreak in China first came to our attention, I felt like I was living out one of those zombie apocalypse movies! I was terrified. But as you go on, you learn to accept that this is just something you have to learn to live with. It’s safe to say that we have all been handed the biggest curveball known to mankind with this pandemic. But the upside has been seeing how creative my fellow South Africans are. Isolation has taught that there are ways to do the work beyond the normalcy we once knew. It has taught me to appreciate those little moments and things and most importantly to remain optimistic for the sake of one’s sanity. Farmers are scrambling to keep the nation fed. Despite the pressure of the demand they are holding their heads up and putting in the work at all costs, their resilience has been a personal inspiration for me!


Dr Willem Jansen Van Rensburg, expert in indigenous vegetables at the Agricultural Research Council.

56. Dr Willem Jansen Van Rensburg, expert in indigenous vegetables at the Agricultural Research Council

I think we have realised how vulnerable, yet resilient agriculture is. Many efforts were put into mitigating the threat of climate change in agriculture. Now, agriculture also had to deal with a global pandemic as well as the resultant national lockdown that restricted movement and human interaction. It forced farmers to relook how they do things. It emphasised the importance of our farm workers and their crucial role in our food security. We also realised how important local food production is. The continual emphasis on local production will stimulate the local economy, but it will also decrease the carbon footprint and transport cost of agricultural products.


Prof. Elmien du Plessis is a leading expert in land and expropriation law.

57. Prof. Elmien du Plessis, law expert at the North-West University

Keeping an eye on what is happening overseas, I realised that we are in for tough times ahead, and that I will have to get in the right headspace. Also, to create an environment at home that acknowledges what is happening around us, but to not getting caught up in anxiety. So, I have created a schedule for my household to stick to, and I have limited my own news consumption to certain times in the day and week. The schedule is a great, new habit. The lockdown also really challenged interpersonal relationships, and I have once again realised how interconnected we are, but also how vulnerable we are as social beings once we get cut off from the world. I think agriculture is really the one sector that cannot fold during a pandemic. We must all eat to survive. Hopefully this showed us how important it is that all our farmers receive the necessary support during a crisis. Smaller farmers need support to meet immediate food needs, and bigger farmers need support to feed the nation. The pandemic might also have a positive impact on urban farming. Farmers are more risk averse than most other professions, so we have a lot to learn from farmers. Of course, with the export ban, it also became clear that we are operating in a global system that can leave us venerable if cut off.


Conce Moraba, agricultural economist at Absa Agribusiness.

58. Conce Moraba, agricultural economist at Absa Agribusiness

Wow, are we really here? A hundred and one days of lockdown? Let’s just say, agriculture does not sleep. We’ve been working around the clock, keeping up with the ever-changing economic environment. I have seen the entire sector move to more online platforms to engage, share ideas, and keep in touch during these isolating times. Commitment and communication are my key take-aways from this pandemic. I am stunned and in awe to see that the show is going on – if not even better than before because of the commitment of all role players.


Dr Willie Cilliers, chairperson of the AHI Western Cape.

59. Dr Willie Cilliers, chair of AHI Western Cape

As a business owner for four companies and 150 employees, the lockdown came as a real shock. Working throughout the lockdown, though, and looking at the impact of the virus on all our people, I understand the context of the lockdown. We are slowly starting to reopen the economy, but the world has changed completely. The next three months will be even more severe in terms of the virus’ spread.  So, we are really awaiting the next few months, but I do find that thinking has become more creative, innovative and different. The impact of the pandemic on the personal financial position of every household is severe. We hope we can recover from this.


Melvin Swarts

60. Melvin Swarts, project coordinator at the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development

I have not been counting the days per se, but I’ve been having this image of warfare in my mind. I’ve been thinking how we can gain a strategic advantage or foothold as the agricultural sector or as a country during this crisis. We desperately need a secure position from which further progress can be made. We can’t afford to lose ground. We need to be open minded; our answers might come from places and people least expected.


Dr Johnny van der Merwe, agricultural economist with the North-West University.

61. Dr Johnny van der Merwe, agricultural economist with the North-West University

The first 101 days of lockdown forced many role players in the agricultural sector to re-evaluate what really is important. In these uncertain times, many people were again looking to contribute closer to home. Therefore, whether it was to spend more time with your loved ones, contribute in your community or support local producers, the focus shifted “inward” rather than “outward”. I believe these trends are here to stay and that it will have a permanent effect on prices and markets in the future. This will create opportunities for new role players, but will also force existing players to constantly re-evaluate their position in the sector.


Siphesihle Kwetana co-owner of Siphe Development and Capacitation Agency runs two farms and she's feeling the impact that covid-19 and the 21-day lockdown on her farmworkers and businesses.
Siphesihle Kwetana, co-owner of Siphe Development and Capacitation Agency.

62. Siphesihle Kwetana, founder of Siphe Development and Capacitation Agency

The lockdown has changed me and my business completely to a point that I even went bankrupt. As a farmer, I have been battling to pay my workers their monthly salaries. It has been even more difficult to be able to maintain my two farms with inputs and other requirements. Sometimes I wonder how I have been able to stay afloat for the last 101 days. As a wife and mother of two beautiful kids it has not been easy either, but I cope by the grace of God.


Prof. Ben Cousins is attached to the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape.

63. Prof. Ben Cousins, Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape

Land policy always involves difficult trade-offs, in this case between capital intensity and employment intensity, and between creating more jobs and paying decent wages. These have to be carefully weighed up and steered in a practical manner. Clearly, finding the funds for land reform will not be easy. But if significant reductions in unemployment through land reform focused on small-scale farming are indeed feasible, as argued in this study, then it might well be worth the effort to find the requisite funds. When South Africa eventually emerges from the fog of the covid-19 crisis, structural reform, including land reform, will be high on the political agenda as never before. A key question is: will policy makers be ready to grasp the nettle of farm scale, and promote the large-scale redistribution of land to small-scale producers?


Duncan Masiwa, journalist at Food For Mzansi

64. Duncan Masiwa, Food For Mzansi journalist

When it was announced that we would go into lockdown, I never anticipated that it would last this long. As a nation, we were united and willing to get through the uncertain period together. But as days progressed and 21 days became 101, I began to wonder if we would ever go back to normal – not that “normal” was any better. The lockdown has tested me tremendously in how I choose to engage with friends, loved ones and others. It has forced me to forgive, forget and let go. More importantly, it has reminded me to love unconditionally, because life is short, and no one is promised another day.


Rossouw Cillié, owner and managing director of Laastedrif Boerdery in Ceres.

65. Rossouw Cillié, owner and managing director of Laastedrif Boerdery in Ceres

The biggest practical lesson I’ve learnt – a lesson we really felt – was that we are not in control. Someone else is, a higher power with the ability to make things change fast. In this entire process, we learnt that we were not being good towards that which we have been entrusted with to inhabit, guard and cultivate. We’ll have to do better. It was great to see how air pollution levels improved, how penguins walked the streets of Simon’s Town again, to see animals in strange places. Maybe this virus came to bring back order and discipline. I’ve also learnt, once again, just how dependent we are on agriculture. You can close everything, but we still have to eat. And perhaps, the biggest lesson I’ve learnt was that the food often cosmetically rejected by consumers in stores can go a really long way to help those in need. We’ve been privileged to grow our business in this time, but especially to provide for the hungry.


Breyton Milford, the operations manager at Agri-Expo.

66. Breyton Milford, Agri-Expo’s operations manager

The reality is that nothing about me has changed, but the world has and I had to adapt. I truly miss the handshakes that we, as a farming industry, do so proudly, the lekker kuiers at agricultural shows and the heated conversations at conferences and meetings. I have, however, adapted to this new normal of Zoom meetings, elbow greetings and staying at home. In our sector, most events are done through virtual platforms now. We needed to adapt pretty fast in order to make an impact. Most of all, 101 days of lockdown has surely changed my mindset to appreciate and care for the smaller things in life; the things I so often took for granted.


Dr Karin Wessels, Free State sheep farmer and co-founder of Mamre Consult.

67. Dr Karin Wessels, Free State sheep farmer and co-founder of Mamre Consult

I’ve come to realise after 101 days on the farm that the lockdown did not necessarily cause technological development, but rather technological utilisation. When it comes to technology, the resistance to change factor largely disappeared now. This ushered in the information era in agriculture. Suddenly, we realised that we’re able to conduct meetings across continents, to participate in auctions without ever leaving the farm. From the comfort of our living rooms, we can present webinars to an international audience. We broke through the technology limits. The rules of the old world were forever rewritten.


Kyran Blaauw, a Food For Mzansi journalist.

68. Kyran Blaauw, Food For Mzansi journalist

The 101 days of lockdown has, once again, confirmed what an unequal society we are. It has taught me to do introspection and reflect on my privileges, my haves (and have nots) and how I can use it to help those who need it most. However, at the same time, it has shown me that in the  face of adversity, South Africans can come together to love, share, care, uplift, and appreciate. It too has taught me that we, as humans, are intertwined, whether we like it or not. Our (re)actions have a direct impact on others. I have learnt to take a step back, to breathe, reflect, and be gentle.


Dr André Jooste, CEO of Potatoes SA.

69. Dr André Jooste, CEO of Potatoes SA

This pandemic has, once again, shown us that people do not like uncertainty. The slaughter of stock markets worldwide has shown that. For a country, like South Africa, that is already under socio-economic pressure, this again shows that uncertainty is not tolerated, no matter who and what you are. However, agriculture is again to our rescue. Like so many times in the past during crises, it is our farmers (large, small, commercial, emerging commercial and communal) and their labourers who, in difficult circumstances, make sure people retain their jobs and the population has access to affordable food. The Arab Spring showed us what would happen if the opposite were true. Agriculture is the foundation on which stability is built. Without our farmers today would have looked much different. During this time we were definitely forced out of our comfort zone with sweet and sour. We are seeing new markets and innovative ways to continue serving the consumer. Many people are forced to work outside the normal. We do what is expected of us when no one is watching. The cracks will be identified over time, and this will lead to a next so-called “new normal” where integrity is rewarded. A few paradigm shifts are knocking on the door, among others, greater importance of partnerships, new and more affordable value propositions for “scared” consumers under financial pressure, adoption of new technologies in various spheres, greater emphasis on distance education and greater cohesion notwithstanding our differences.


Food For Mzansi journalist Sinesipho Tom.

70. Sinesipho Tom, journalist at Food For Mzansi

Covid-19 has turned the world on its head. Everything has been affected. How we live and interact with each other, how we work and communicate and how we view the world. I used to think that we, as a people, differ quite a bit, but the pandemic just made me realise that we are closer than we realise, and we are all the same. We all want to be loved and we all want to feel safe. Unfortunately, the pandemic has also highlighted the inequalities we have in the world, particularly in my country. While some of us stocked up on food and goods so we could limit our trips to the supermarkets to lessen our chances of catching the virus, others couldn’t even afford a meal. It is heart-breaking and it just shows a lot still need to change in the world. Lives are being lost, which is heart-breaking too. I don’t think anyone had anticipated that it would get this serious. All we can do is protect ourselves and to hope that this too shall pass.


AFASA Chairperson, Neo Masithela.
Afasa chairperson, Neo Masithela.

71. Neo Mashitela, chairperson of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa

The covid-19 pandemic has changed the world. Many farmers have lost their markets due to the 101 day lockdown. Those farmers who were privileged to have markets in Europe, the US, Asia or elsewhere outside of our borders, also suffered severely. My focus now is to build alternative markets in South Africa. Covid-19 actually forced us to dig deeper into our pockets to save our farmers. When we save our farmers, we save our products and when you save our products, we also save our markets. At the same time, we also have to be cautious to ensure that our farmers don’t get infected because if they do, our production will slow down tremendously.


Dr Pieter Prinsloo, a farmer from Queenstown in the Eastern Cape. Photo: Supplied

72. Dr Pieter Prinsloo, Queenstown cattle farmer and director of Integra Trust

We became reconnected to food again. We are more cognisant to the prominence of our food. People have started asking questions, if the shelf is empty they want to know why. I think its created a scenario where people are more connected with the origin of their food. This evolution had to take place. The mass production of food with no traceability or no knowledge of origin was going to change and it was going to be a slow process, but covid-19 – and especially now in these 101 days – have actually sped up that process. People are more inclined to order food online to see where for instance a box of fruit comes from. Covid-19 gave us a connection to food.


Buchule Jack (chief financial officer of Amiline (PTY) Ltd), with Kobus Louwrens (co-founder of Food For Mzansi).
Buchule Jack, a farmer from Bothaville in the Free State.

73. Buchule Jack, farmer and co-founder of Amiline in Bothaville in the Free State

The lockdown has encouraged us to do things differently. Many sectors have had to be innovative and dynamic in order to stay efficient. The agricultural sector has experienced supply chain and logistical disruptions that have impacted us negatively. However, we are committed to continue contributing to the food security of our country. Through innovation and strategic pivots, such as crop and animal diversification, I believe that farmers and the sector as a whole can survive this pandemic. I too have had to diversify what I do for a living. Multiple income streams have now become a necessity. One cannot simply rely on what they used to do, and how they used to do it. I have had to look to other sectors, so as to minimise the effect of covid-19 on my earning capabilities.


Zacharia Motsumi, spokesperson of the South African Tobacco Transformation Alliance.

74. Zacharia Motsumi, spokesperson of the South African Tobacco Transformation Alliance

Life was tough enough before lockdown. Tobacco farmers have been under threat for a long time because of high taxes, the growth of the illicit market and the general economic climate. But nothing could have prepared us for this. The situation is desperate for everyone involved in the production of legal tobacco products. The tragic irony is that it is the people who obey the law who are being punished, and the people who break the law who benefit. They make millions every day. We really have no sense of our future. We don’t know when cigarettes can be sold again, and until then we are trapped.


Elzanne Van Lill, CEO of Mentfield Logistics.

75. Elzanne van Lill, CEO of Mentfield Logistics

101 days of lockdown forced people to have major introspection. I even re-examined the way I run the business. I started my business as a one person show, and we have grown ever since. I have been forced to go back to the basics and really look at the systems that I once used to get agricultural products out of the country.

 

 


Buzwe Pama (35), Pieter Van Heerden (29) and Buchule Jack (37) run a 482-hectare potato farming enterprise in Bothaville in the Free State.
Pieter van Heerden, Free State Farmer and co-founder of Amiline in Bothaville in the Free State.

76. Pieter van Heerden, farmer and co-founder of Amiline in Bothaville in the Free State

We have had the privilege of doing essential work during the lockdown, but this did not come without challenges. The situation with the imports was a bit difficult, especially when our tractor broke down two weeks into the lockdown. But other than that, our perspective has really changed. We have solidified our bonds and became a united family. We make sure that we stick to the stipulated health rules of running our business – not only for our personal well-being, but also for our farm colleagues. From the guy driving the biggest tractor to the guy with the spanner, we are united and mindful.


Mtambo Boerdery boasts hundreds of livestock he distributes in the Free State and Gauteng's Vaal Triangle
Joseph (Nkosana) Mtambo, Free State livestock farmer and owner of Mtambo Boerdery.

77. Joseph (Nkosana) Mtambo, Free State livestock farmer and owner of Mtambo Boerdery

In the business of livestock and trading the lockdown has affected the kilos we put out. We have seen prices decline because of the markets. As a farmer, I am directly affected now that funerals are no longer allowed to have more than 50 people. People are not buying livestock from me anymore. They would rather go to the butchery and buy meat. It has changed a lot of things because you can no longer travel under the stricter alert levels. As farmers we have missed out on opportunities to travel too. Last month, I was supposed to attend the World Agricultural Conference overseas, but we couldn’t go. We used these opportunities to network and exchange knowledge and insights. A lot has changed. I have had to adjust to a lifestyle where I am obliged to limit my movements. I cannot hustle very well.


Dr Frikkie Maré, head of the department of agricultural economics at the Free State University.

78. Dr Frikkie Maré, head of the department of agricultural economics at the Free State University

There is usually good and bad to be found in any event. The lockdown restrictions in South Africa was the same. Yes, it was bad. The economy is suffering, many businesses have folded and many people have already lost their jobs. But, on the other hand, we also learned a lot. We learned that technology works really well and runs smoothly from auctions to meetings. The agricultural sector was certainly the least affected. From the beginning of the lockdown, the sector was able to continue operations. Yet we still felt its impact. Prices are volatile, and it was sometimes difficult to get inputs. Also, fears of many farm workers for the all-destroying virus had to be calmed. However, agriculture has shone its bright light and will surely be the economic anchor for the rest of the year. Current policy uncertainty due to land reform is highly inconsistent with the important task that producers have to accomplish on a daily basis. Agriculture is, has been and will remain the anchor of this country for a very long time in difficult times. Let us embrace and support this wonderful sector and ensure food security in our country.


Jac Jordaan, an Eastern Cape farmer.

79. Jac Jordaan, boergoat farmer in the Swaershoek region of the Eastern Cape

Covid-19 caught most South Africans off guard, from starting off as a bit of a joke to reaching unbelievable levels. The sheer infection numbers are unbelievable, as well as the fact that many of us now know people who succumbed to the virus. This creates fear and uncertainty. We are suddenly very aware of our own mortality. No one is sure whether they will still be able to work tomorrow. The pandemic has become like a sword hovering over our heads. The stress of financial uncertainty cuts deep into households. It creates anxiety that leads to behavioural and personality changes. People no longer laugh. The fact that no one knows whether they will be able to survive the virus suddenly makes everyone aware of their mortality. Death is suddenly a reality. Old arguments and grievances now go unnoticed and families began to reconnect and look after each other’s interests. People are less arrogant. Money, positions and who you are or know suddenly means very little. Businesses need to think out of the box and customers are worth gold. My experience is that service delivery is much better. The arrogance that big businesses have had is gone. There is empathy and interest in helping, because clients are scarce. I hope this is something that will continue for a long time to come.


FarmSol managing director Aron Kole.

80. Aron Kole, MD at FarmSol

Firstly, in reflecting about the past I have been more in tune with the simple pleasures that life offers: to love, laugh, trust more and cherish. As humans we are social beings. We survive by socialising with one another. Being deprived from socialising with one another is not our way. We’re always better together. Secondly, thinking about the future gave me a fresh perspective that we will always encounter obstacles and curveballs, but how we respond becomes the most important thing. Technology has always been there. I do, however, think we did not previously take much advantage of the opportunities that this provided. In this present moment, I must do my part in stopping the spread of the virus by adhering to social distancing, washing hands and wearing a mask. At the same time, I sympathise with the many that lost their jobs and have to live with the other consequences of covid-19. This virus might not infect us all, but it surely does affect us all. Although agriculture was declared an essential service and continued, there are farmers that lost a lot of money due to restrictions and lower prices for their produce. Many had to plough their crops back into the land. The pandemic also lay bare the big divide between the haves and the have’s not, and that agriculture remains and important tool to fight poverty.


Tshepo Morokong is an agricultural economist at the Western Cape department of agriculture.
Tshepo Morokong is an agricultural economist at the Western Cape department of agriculture.

81. Tshepo Morokong, senior agricultural economist at the Western Cape department of agriculture

Life as I knew it had come to a halt. I started working remotely from home and could not travel locally and abroad. Online meetings and the use of secondary data from various credible sources made it easy to continue with research work. The prolonged stay at home inevitably made me reflect on life, work, the economy and other matters that pertain to life. I pondered on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in terms of the extent to which the 101 days of lockdown has affected access to basic needs, emotional and psychological well-being, including the freedom to pursue the career inspirations. However, it dawned on me that as a people we have the adaptive and resilience capacity, and by observing all the covid-19 regulations, including exercising, putting on a face mask, maintaining social distancing, washing hands frequently and sanitising, life can still go on as we continue the fight against the pandemic. The agriculture sector is among the key sectors providing essential services. The first-quarter results from Stats SA show that the GDP has contracted by 2%, and of the ten industries contributing to the economy, only five made a positive contribution, agriculture being one of them.


Gerhard Kriel, founder of Friends of Agriculture.

82. Gerhard Kriel, founder of Friends of Agriculture

Around the world people got a taste of exactly how good it feels to work from home. This is the general standard in agriculture, of course, with the added dynamic that the family remains part of the business. The entire principle of work is outcome-driven and not just to “stay busy”. That has changed everywhere. Agriculture has always been outcome-driven and I do believe most people now have a sense of exactly how it works in agriculture. Most businesses have realised that every staff member’s contribution can be measured and this in itself leads to a reflection of the value of staff. Job loss can also occur as a result of the re-planning processes and this can lead to increased entrepreneurship, which will be the real fixer of the economy.


Elton Greeve, the Managing Director of EMS Agri Solutions.

83. Elton Greeve, the managing director of EMG Agri Solutions

The agricultural sector has remained relatively stable during the lockdown, however some sectors such as wine, wool and citrus have experienced challenges especially on the export side, but mostly due to lockdown regulations that negatively affected operations and trade. Due to the closure of secondary agri-supply-chains such as restaurants, informal trading, livestock auctions, tobacco ban etc. the impact this has had on emerging farmers will be an economic challenge which will be very difficult for them to recover from. This is further compounded by the liquidity problems at the Land Bank. Emerging farmers will face a tough time both during and post the lockdown, if effective financing isn’t available for them. In my opinion, the lockdown has clearly demonstrated that in terms of agriculture, there is a need for government and the private sector to work closely in order to develop an effective recovery model, but this must filter down to a local level, where these partnerships are needed most.


Prof. James Blignaut is a resource economist.

84. Prof. James Blignaut, a resource economist at the School of Public Leadership at Stellenbosch University and a director of the Integra Trust

The covid-19-induced lockdown period has irreversibly changed the face and purpose of agriculture in a few key areas. This includes a global recognition that agriculture is the number one essential service. Also, healthy food leading to a strong immune system is the first line of defence against any virus or disease. Food production, distribution and preparation contribute to bringing about social cohesion, be that through feeding schemes, food clubs, non-governmental organisations, faith-based networks, or any other means. Agriculture done regeneratively can, and does contribute, much towards healing the land and its people.


Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at Agbiz and author of “Finding Common Ground: Land, Equity & Agriculture”.

85. Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at Agbiz

There is consensus amongst South Africa’s agricultural economists that the next frontiers for growth in the sector will be through the expansion of production mainly in the former homelands provinces (KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Limpopo). The government land and underperforming land reform farms are also other additional avenues for expansion in agricultural output. The Eastern Cape and Limpopo have been amongst the provinces with the least contribution to the nation’s agricultural fortunes. Meanwhile, provinces such as the Western Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga, to name a few, contribute 22%, 10%, and 9% to national agriculture gross value added, respectively. A crucial step for South Africa is to understand why agricultural development has lagged over the past two decades in these provinces on the one hand, while commercial agriculture in other areas doubled output on the other.


Lindi Botha, a well-known agricultural journalist.

86. Lindi Botha, freelance journalist for, among others, Food For Mzansi

It is ironic that although the world came to a standstill for so many of us, the greatest lesson I learnt during the 101 days of lockdown was to slow down and appreciate each moment. Being an agricultural journalist, not being able to get to a farm, speak face to face with a farmer and to get my boots dusty, was something I really missed. So, once we moved to level 3 and I started travelling again, you can be sure I took my time at each farm, savouring every moment. Something I don’t usually do as I’m too rushed to get the info and meet the deadlines. All those phone interviews also taught me another thing. South Africa has a plethora of knowledgeable, passionate people who are truly experts in their field. Getting the right information and punchy quotes that keep the reader’s attention and really bring home the message is made all the easier by having the privilege to work with these agri leaders!


Omri van Zyl, executive director of Agri SA. Photo: Supplied

87. Omri van Zyl, executive director of Agri SA

Agriculture is one of the parts that will move our economy forward. People do not realise just how badly covid-19 has pressed the reset button on economic development and growth, also in South Africa. Agriculture is definitely geared towards economic development, but certain principles are non-negotiable, including responsible land reform, water rights and land values. The future will have to look a lot different. People will have to react a lot less politically biased towards agriculture and agricultural development. I don’t think government did enough to support agricultural advancement in the last 25 years. It’s time to jointly determine our future, and also high time that everyone realise the importance of food security and working food systems. It doesn’t exist in other African countries. We want to contribute, but it cannot be a blank cheque, because we also have economic and social aims.


Renshia Manuel, the CEO of GrowBox, a wholesale nursery in Hanover Park on the Cape Flats.

89. Renshia Manuel, the CEO of GrowBox, a wholesale nursery in Hanover Park on the Cape Flats

The one important thing I’ve learnt during covid-19 is that although work is important, time with my family is invaluable. I made peace with my imperfections and weaknesses and to ask for help when overwhelmed. I have always been a go-getter and always wanted to prove that I’m more than capable – even when I had no idea how to proceed. But I’ve now learnt to take my time, to ask for assistance and to use my network whenever I got overwhelmed. It’s not weakness to ask for assistance, but actually strength and courage. This is the catalyst that all entrepreneurs, and especially farmers, need during these unprecedented times. The last few lines from Invictus, my favourite poem by William Ernest Henley, says, “It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” Work and profits should not always be the driving force behind our ambition, but family and a legacy is what’s needed. Be the captain of your soul by leaving a legacy.


Angus McIntosh practices regenerative farming principles on his 126-hectare farm in Stellenbosch, Western Cape.
Angus McIntosh practices regenerative farming principles on his 126-hectare farm in Stellenbosch, Western Cape.

90. Angus McIntosh, a regenerative farmer from Stellenbosch

Lockdown has been a good and a bad thing for us. The bad thing is that we lost 60% of our clients overnight because hotels and restaurants all closed (as a result of the covid-19 trade restrictions). The good thing is that some of the retail demand picked up again, but not quite enough, and it’s forced us to make some changes so that we can survive. People are generally interested in eating healthier food because they’re finally realising that they need to have a strong immune system. For regenerative agriculture it’s been good and we are hopeful that it will continue to be good.


Prof. Philippe Burger from Free State University.

91.  Prof. Philippe Burger, pro-vice-chancellor for poverty, inequality and economic development at Free State University

To grow the economy effectively, government must provide room for the private sector to invest in high-growth industries, and reduce the red tape and policy uncertainty. Government and private sector must together identify and address the stumbling blocks. In exchange, the private sector must commit to their investment targets for economic growth, job creation and employment. In the view of almost 30% of South Africa’s population still living on communal land, government must formalise the policy of tenure rights not only to embed farmers on this land into the modern supply chains, but also allow for the private sector to invest in these communal areas. Government and the private sector needs to understand what a “future South Africa vision” entails to combat our junk status position. Key is that the country needs a serious investment compact overall, and sectoral deals between government and business.


Caroline McCann, Slow Food International’s Southern Africa councillor. Picture: Lamb Loves Thyme

92. Caroline McCann, Slow Food International’s Southern Africa councillor

I expect the altered spending patterns to continue even as lockdown measures are eased. This is due to reduced household incomes. What’s happened is that government made announcements progressively through the lockdown that they would be very strict on price control and profiteering during this period. However, you’ve still seen food prices rising and with that you’ve got the double whammy of people’s income being affected. People who lost their jobs or took pay cuts had no choice but to start thinking a lot more carefully about how they spend their money. The automatic go-to place, whether you are in suburban, township or rural South Africa, your thought is to cheaper products which are highly processed, that come with a longer shelf life. I don’t see us getting out of that in a hurry.


Thapelo Kgopodithate with a former employee of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.
Thapelo Kgopodithate, a Northern Cape farmer.

93. Thapelo Kgopodithate, a farmer in Kuruman in the Northern Cape

The 101 day lockdown changed my life completely. During the lockdown, I was pleasantly surprised to see how little we actually needed to live reasonably comfortably. The impact of covid-19, though, is far greater than any one of us could have expected, and it is felt by every South African. We are dealing with an unprecedented situation. Uncertainty abounds, and we simply don’t know how it will all play out. Meanwhile, I am blessed to simply enjoy the Kalahari air, crystal clear blue skies, the sunset, the chirping of birds, the sound of the herds.


Thapelo Phiri is one of earth's "groundkeepers". As an organic fertiliser specialists, he helps crop farmers get the most out of the land they farm on.
Thapelo Phiri is one of earth’s “groundkeepers”. As an organic fertiliser specialists, he helps crop farmers get the most out of the land they farm on.

94. Thapelo Phiri Jr., director of Golden Legacy Trading and Projects, an agribusiness in Johannesburg

The 101 days of lockdown have changed how we used to know agriculture. It has outlined the importance of the sector not only as a business, but also as a way to save lives. The 101 days of lockdown has tested and proven that South African farmers of all sizes can play a role in our country and be part in improving food security. I believe that the 101 days of lockdown have shown us how important it is to start working on sustainable food systems. In addition, ensuring that high-quality, nutritious food continue to be accessible to everyone. I believe this will help the sector to thrive even post covid-19.


Maize and vegetable farmer Marvin Mavhunga from Thohoyandou in Limpopo.

95. Marvin Mavhunga, maize and vegetable farmer from Thohoyandou in Limpopo

The 101 days of lockdown has created opportunities for me as a small-scale farmer. We are in demand now more than ever. Locals are now buying directly from farmers. Post covid-19, I think commercial farmers will export their products for higher currencies, leaving an opportunity for us as the smaller guys. But the lockdown restrictions have also impacted me negatively. I’m not a registered enterprise, so I’m unable to obtain my essential service certificate. As a result, I can’t travel to buy inputs and my workers have been struggling to come to work. I think as emerging farmers we are really being pushed to step up our game.


Tumelo Siliga never wanted to farm. His heart was set on politics, but when tragedy struck, Siliga took up the mantle and achieved his father's dream.
Tumelo Silinga

96. Tumelo Silinga, owner of Kharishume poultry farm in Makhado, Limpopo

Lockdown limited my traveling when I was about to buy heifers. I missed the opportunity because I was told I can’t travel to load them. But what is missed is not a waste because I was able to buy from a farmer around my area. I bought cows, not heifers, and they are doing very well. By the end of September or early October 2020 they should be calving. This taught me to formalise my business and to comply with the necessary regulations of any business. The lockdown also taught me to market my products on social media and to cut out the middle man. It was a blessing in disguise.


Sourcer: Twitter
Dr Augustin Wambo Yamdjeu, spokesperosn for AUDA-NEPAD.

97. Dr Augustin Wambo Yamdjeu, African Union Development Agency spokesperson

We are beginning to see that private sector conversation is no longer a bytheway issue. It has now become something that is very much considered in the main scheme of things. More importantly in this particular time we can see that the governments themselves are able to acknowledge and also do what it takes to facilitate government or private sector investment to flow more into the sector. With the current situation, I think more effort will be needed. We will have to discuss how we structure further dialogue between the government and the people who are willing to invest their resources in the strategic value chain, so we don’t look at national investment plans as something that is only owned by the government. The government should be seen as a facilitator for the farmers and the investors.


Gerrit van Vuuren of PALS.

98. Gerrit van Vuuren, strategic advisor at Initiative Partners in Agri-land Solutions (PALS)

Covid-19 changed the way we experienced the world with our senses. We hear fake news, but also stories of hope. We smell fear, but also the burning fires that signal survival. We taste the foulness of the illegal tobacco trade, but also taste the farmers’ crops that provides food for the country. We see extreme hunger and hopelessness, but also the efforts of the agri-sector to provide and distribute food. We feel the pain of a broken economy and lost jobs, but we also feel the rays of the African sun with each new dawn as testimony to a little hope. We now anticipate a new reality and remain hopeful that we will inspire the nation to grow together.


Free State Agriculture President Francois Wilken. Photo: Conrad Bornman
Free State Agriculture president Francois Wilken.

99. Francois Wilken, Free State Agriculture president

I am worried that the covid-19 pandemic will lead to even more job losses in the Free State. Before the lockdown, our unemployment rate was at 30%. Heaven knows what it currently is. This is a major crisis, and a hungry man is a dangerous man. But we will keep on producing and distributing food. Farming communities are only asking to be safe. South Africans need to open their eyes. We’ll have to stand together.


Charles America, veteran fisher and activist from Ocean View, Western Cape. Photo: GroundUp

100. Charles America, veteran fisher and activist from Ocean View, Western Cape

The pandemic just further illustrates how insignificant and how severely neglected we, as small-scale fishers, are as a legitimate fisheries resource user-group. Food production, legal entities, community systems, and state fisheries management seem to be equally hamstrung by the pandemic, because the department of environment, fisheries and forestry had absolutely no idea nor contingency plan in place or in mind. So, the problems and tasks of local traditional fisherfolk are so much more daunting and burdensome. We now need to illustrate, as accurately as possible, the compromised situation in which we as traditional artisanal fisher peoples find ourselves due to the added complications facing us.


Sinqobile Khalishwayo, farmer in the Gert Sibande district of Mpumalanga.

101. Sinqobile Khalishwayo, farmer in the Gert Sibande district of Mpumalanga

The lockdown changed me and awoke the inspiration and determination beast inside of me. I gave birth to my dream when Indalo Farming was established. The lockdown made me want to move mountains, but with the support of my family and mentors I opted to start small and instead pave my way to reach my goal. As an up-and-coming farmer, covid-19 really put a strain on me to an extent that I thought of giving up, but because I am not self-made, but moulded by people I continued to push until I saw the light.

Reporting by: Dawn Noemdoe, Duncan Masiwa, Ivor Price, Kobus Louwrens, Kyran Blaauw, Noluthando Ngcakani and Sinesipho Tom
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