During South Africa’s COVID-19 lockdown, millions of people have gone to sleep hungry. Sadly, this a situation that is likely to get worse. The nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus has pushed millions of families into food insecurity. A recent study by the Human Sciences Research Council found that up to 30% of South Africans have been experiencing hunger during lockdown. This number could increase as rising unemployment means people can’t afford food.


In response to this crisis, Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) has invited people to apply for seeds and seedlings. The aim is to help them grow their own food and fight food insecurity. So far, we have distributed more than 113 900 seedlings as part of our Grow-Your-Own initiative and plan to distribute seeds as part of a phased approach. 

FTFA is a leading development organisation that focuses on food security, urban greening and environmental sustainability. With 30 years of experience, we aim to build resilience in the country’s food systems and ensure that people can access healthy food.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the fault lines in global food systems. According to the World Bank, “as the coronavirus crisis unfolds, disruptions in domestic food supply chains and other shocks affecting food production, and loss of incomes and remittances are creating strong tensions and food security risks in many countries.”

Community-based food production is a sector that FTFA has been actively developing for decades. This is one way to grow resilience in a country’s food system – resilience that is even more important during a pandemic.

A Wide Reach

“The Grow-Your-Own Initiative is our response to COVID-19,” says Emily Jones, programme manager at FTFA. The programme was specifically developed to respond to the needs of South Africans during this crisis. Fortunately, we have been able to leverage FTFA’s expertise in food security and supply networks.

So far, the initiative has reached communities across the country, from Mitchells Plain in the Western Cape to Thohoyandou in Limpopo. “We sent out an application form for seeds and seedlings to farmers, households, and anyone who needed them, at the beginning of lockdown,” Jones explains. FTFA received more than 4 000 applicants and we continue to assess applications, matching them with funding where possible. We are also continuing to work during the pandemic to boost resilience in the country’s food system.

How to Help

If you’d like to help us support farmers across the country through Grow-Your-Own, donate here.

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