Yesterday in Nyandeni Local Municipality in Libode, Eastern Cape, residents received much-needed food parcels as part of the Southern African Youth Movement’s Covid-19 food donation relief program. This food parcel donation was slightly different, as agricultural self-help was prioritised through the distribution of seedlings and food production support to Nyandeni residents. Along for the journey were celebrity ambassadors Israel Matseke-Zulu, Zenzo Ngqobe and Presley Chweneyagae. 

Mzwakhe Sigudla, executive director of the SAYM, said they have been active across the country, donating to a number of communities. Social and food security relief has been of increasing importance as the lockdown has continued. 

“People are sitting at home and they don’t have means to access food. We had to find a way to distribute items — under that we have a target of 150 000 households to cover nationwide. So far we are sitting at 6 000, and that is part of the reason why we are distributing,” Sigudla said.

SAYM looks at what types of interventions are necessary on a municipal level, especially about food security and poverty issues, and then fulfils vulnerable communities’ needs. 

“The strategy we use for food distribution is guided by the municipalities where we are in terms of the incident list,” he added.

“The food parcels we distribute come from many different partners, among those partners is the Solidarity Fund. In this case, the Solidarity Trust Fund has made an allocation,” added Sigudla.

The program will continue in the Elliotdale [Idutywa] and Lady Grey [Sengqu] communities.

Busting Covid-19 myths

Zenzo Ngqobe, well-known actor and ambassador of the SAYM, said this pandemic has had far-reaching consequences to household’s food security.

“We have been going around the provinces just to help the needy with food — so that people can try to survive, as we all know a lot of people are not working, a lot of people have lost their salaries and jobs. What we’re saying with this Covid-19 initiative is: ‘let’s come together and give each other a helping hand, and fight this virus.’”

 Another ambassador, actor Israel Motseke-Zulu who has been working with SAYM since 2006, said this campaign is about accelerating accurate Covid-19 messaging — especially for the youth.

“We also want to erase the stigma that this virus is for white people, or Chinese people and that it would never affect them. So, we are here to help them to understand that this virus affects all of us. It’s important for all of us to use sanitisers and masks, and also adhere to the rules by, mostly, staying at home,” he explained.

Zulu added: “And lastly, the most important thing is we have implemented a program of donating with seeds to those who have gardens in their homes so that they can plough, and access food in that way.” 

Gardening can be ‘soul-soothing’

Mayor Melusi Ngqondwana said Nyandeni Local Municipality is one of the poorest areas in the district, and is marred by unemployment, disease and a stagnant economy.

“I was thinking that the food parcel initiative is not going to take us far — especially not knowing when this lockdown will end,” Ngqodwana said.

He continues: “But part of the issue I was discussing with the management is giving people seedlings, as they are at home so that they start gardening. We can ensure they have vegetables in their homes in this way. Gardening can also be soul-soothing, since people are devastated by being at home.”

 The mayor further said that the municipality prides itself by doing things in an objective and honest manner, and there have been zero complaints about the way in which food and seed parcels were distributed.

“We engage with councillors and leaders in the communities. We encourage them to consult broadly with stakeholders. On behalf of the Nyandeni community, we would like to say thank you.”

“The door is open — even post-Covid-19. We want to have a lasting partnership with organisations, to better the lies of the people in Nyandeni ” said Ngqondwana. 

Seedlings bring joy

Health-e News spoke with one of the beneficiaries Nolulamile Mveli from Qhankqu Village in Libode, who said he had lost hope about receiving a food parcel.

“I am unemployed and before lockdown I was able to get small jobs but now I can’t go out and look for a job,” he explained.

The seedlings and food production support was important to Mveli, who believes that good food security practices, like subsistence farming, can be passed down to his children. 

“I am very happy that I also got the seedlings, I will encourage my five children to plant them. I also want to ask the mayor since he is here today to provide us with electricity. It’s been years waiting for electricity — we use paraffin lamps,” said Mveli.

Meanwhile, another Libode resident, Mhlinzeko Madwantsi, who also has five children said that the day was one of his happiest.  

“I didn’t expect a very poor man like me to be a beneficiary.  I find myself holding back tears. Thank you, Mayor.” — Health-e News