Bennie Van Rooy, Grobank CEO
Nearly 250 small-scale farmers and other agriculturists from across South Africa signed up for a free webinar on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on food systems, food security and agricultural livelihoods.
Presented by the award-winning agricultural news and lifestyle platform Food For Mzansi, in partnership with Grobank, this important webinar’s theme was ‘We shall overcome: South African agriculture beyond Covid-19’.
South Africa is a net exporter of food, but the extended coronavirus lockdown has put farmers under immense pressure, with many now finding it difficult to cope financially. Dr Vuyo Mahlati, president of the African Farmers’ Association (Afasa), earlier warned that the lockdown might have a particularly harsh impact on the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and co-operatives, with regard to food availability and affordability.
“Vulnerable groups also include the country’s farmers, big and small, as well as fishers and pastoralists, who are finding it increasingly difficult to access markets to sell their produce or buy essential inputs,” says Food For Mzansi co-founder Ivor Price. “In the last few weeks, we’ve also been in almost daily conversations with farmers who were very successful until the Covid-19 lockdown. Many of them have since had to lay off workers.”
According to Kobus Louwrens, the other co-founder of Food For Mzansi, farmers benefitted from the agricultural and other thought leaders who spoke during the webinar on Thursday, 16 April 2020.
Dr Mahlati was joined by Grobank CEO Bennie van Rooy; Christo van der Rheede, deputy executive director of Agri SA; Dr Naudé Malan, founder of Izindaba Zokudla; Dr Sifiso Ntombela, chief economist of the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC); and Ronelle Louwrens, CEO of YehBaby Digital.
Says Louwrens: “This webinar addressed some of the practical questions farmers might have about the financial assistance announced by Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, which has ring-fenced R1.2bn to assist financially distressed small-scale farmers. We believe that many farmers need assistance regarding the matter and the webinar offered an opportunity for a better understanding.”
“Grobank was delighted to partner with Food For Mzansi in presenting this thought-provoking webinar,” says Van Rooy. ”We understand the critical role of funding to the agri-sector and therefore food security. As a bank that supports farmers and the farm-to-fork supply chain, Grobank provides assistance where possible.”
Van Rooy adds that the webinar provided immense value as attendees also received a summary of all the financial support currently on the table to assist the agricultural sector in surviving the pandemic.