During South Africa’s COVID-19 lockdown, millions of people have gone to sleep hungry – a situation that is likely to get worse. The nation-wide 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 the country experienced 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) invited people to apply for seedlings to help them grow their own food and bolster their food security. So far, it has distributed more than 113,900 seedlings as part of its Grow-Your-Own Initiative.
FTFA is a leading development organisation that focuses on food security, urban greening and environmental sustainability. With its 30 years of experience, the organisation aims to build resilience in the country’s food systems and ensure that people can access healthy food.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the faultlines in global food systems. “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,” according to the World Bank.
Community-based food production – a sector which FTFA has been actively developing for decades – is one way to grow resilience in a country’s food system. The need for this resilience is even more important during a pandemic.
“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 Africa during this crisis, leveraging FTFA’s expertise in food security and supply networks.
So far, the initiative has reached communities across the country, from Mitchells Plein 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. This call yielded more than 4,000 applicants and the organisation continues to assess applications, matching them with funding where possible. The organisation continues to work during the pandemic to boost resilience in the country’s food system.
If you’d like to help us support farmers across the country through Grow Your Own donate here.