Smallholder farmers to benefit from new relief fund

The newly established body, the Agri Relief Foundation (ARF), is set to provide an invaluable service to the agricultural sector on a farmer-to-farmer basis. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

The newly established body, the Agri Relief Foundation (ARF), is set to provide an invaluable service to the agricultural sector on a farmer-to-farmer basis. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

South Africa’s agricultural sector is no stranger to damaging floods, droughts, veld fires and disease outbreaks. While most relief initiatives are geared toward large-scale disasters, a newly established body is set to come to the rescue of individual agricultural producers in dire need.

Known as the Agri Relief Foundation (ARF), the non-profit organisation is the brainchild of several businesses in the agricultural sector. One of its directors is Dr Frikkie Maré, senior lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of the Free State (UFS).

According to Maré, the foundation will have a national focus and will be different to existing disaster relief programmes.

Dr Frikkie Maré, senior lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of the Free State (UFS). Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

“The only difference is that it will be for individual farmers. With the current veld fires, for example, we cannot assist when 400 000 hectares have been lost in the Northern Cape. There are other organisations dealing with that,” Maré explains.

“But if someone, for example, had set a veld alight and only two or three farms neighbouring each other were affected, then we can help.”

He mentions other examples such as the loss of grazing due to brown locust, or farm attacks or murders, after which aid can ensure the day-to-day running of the farm.

More than just a fund

Besides the direct benefit to the farmer, the founders of the initiative also hope to add value to society.

According to Maré the assistance of the ARF will ripple out to a much larger circle of stakeholders than only the agricultural producer.

He says, “When the sustainability of an agricultural producer is under threat, it also threatens the livelihoods of their workers and their families, [as well as] the rural economy of the nearest town where they purchase production inputs and general groceries, [and] society at large, as less food or fibre will be produced.”

Further to that, the agricultural students of the UFS are also set to benefit as Maré intends to share knowledge gained during relief efforts with his students.

Agricultural economics, he explains, is fundamentally about ensuring the long-term sustainability of agricultural production… through concepts such as production economics, natural resource economics, agricultural management and marketing.  

“My involvement in the ARF will provide examples of what can go wrong in terms of primary production that threatens the sustainability of the enterprise and what can be done to assist.”

Smallholder farmers included

Although applications are not accepted yet, the process will entail a farmer applying for relief funding and a group of directors making a final decision based on the merit of the application. Small-scale producers will not be excluded from receiving aid, Maré confirms to Food For Mzansi, but their applications will also be considered on merit.

Applications are envisaged to start in January 2022.

Maré says that, in the meantime, any business or individual can make contributions. “Financial contributions as well as physical products such as transport, fuel, animal feed and legal services are welcome.”

Businesses or individuals are welcome to make financial contributions as well as physical products such as transport, fuel, animal feed, and legal services. Visit Agri Relief Foundation to make contributions.

ALSO READ: Free State’s veld fire battle not over

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