Water under the bridge. This is how KwaZulu-Natal dairy farmer Colin Wellbeloved describes farmers’ resolve to restore their agricultural enterprises to its full glory in an attempt to continue feeding the nation.
As last week’s unrest that brought destruction and widespread chaos subsides, farmers tell Food For Mzansi they have no choice but to rebuild and support one another ensure that food security remains stable.
Wellbeloved, from Underberg in the foothills of the Drakensberg, is also the chairperson of the Milk Producers’ Organisation (MPO).
“We are just going to carry on producing food, I think. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of waste and it’s a shame and it is a pity, but that is water under the bridge now. We are just going to have to put our heads down and produce food.”
He adds that farmers are moved by the great support from many South Africans after suffering losses during the violent uprising against government.
“One of the encouraging things was how well we’ve actually been received by the communities that we are working with. We have protected each other, really, and that has been a positive going forward, but our job is to produce food and that is what we are going to be carrying on doing.”
A tough road ahead
Morgan Brand, a soil scientist and farmer near Harding, says during the height of the looting and anarchy that brought KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng to its knees, people in his community stood together.
They took turns to patrol the area for any suspicious behaviour which was then reported to the police.
A busy few weeks await Brand as his labourers could not get to work last week.
“I had no staff and they have just come back. Other than that, I have got enough things to focus on. I have to rebuild my own place.”
The Drakensberg Bee Academy owner and farmer Mbali Ngcobo warns, however, that many people will take much longer to bounce back after losses suffered due to the insurrection attempt.
“That is where we come to realise that we are actually [quite] privileged because, for us, life is moving on, but somehow other people are suffering from the aftermath.”
Ngcobo believes that government should now extend its investment in agriculture and jobless graduates.
“This is the time where government should look into putting in more into this sector. This is the time where they really need to investigate how they can utilise these graduates because now, if you are not careful, we are eventually going to suffer from food insecurity.”