Dr Theo de Jager, Chairman of the board of Saai and president of the World Farmers Organisation, writes:
Farmers across the world saw the disruption of value chains, linkages to markets and changing consumer preferences due to COVID-19 lockdowns forcing them to restrategize and often restructure their enterprises, not only to survive but to thrive.
Farmers feel it in their pockets as input costs such as the prices of fertilizers and agrichemicals are skyrocketing because of mines and factories which were closed, and because of the biggest traffic jam in human history on our seas and harbours.
Farmers suffered from it as restaurants, fast food outlets, school feeding schemes, kiosks and canteens were closed, and street vendors stopped selling a quick bite to commuters who pass by on their way to work.
People did not stop eating during lockdown, but their eating habits changed. They resorted to family meals, own cooking, own recipes and even own garden production in those weeks and months when offices and factories were closed. On the one end it led to surpluses on farms and millions of kilograms of potatoes and litres milk had no destination in markets. On the other end millions of people especially in Africa, Latin America and southeast Asia lost their jobs, livelihoods, and household food security.
The world’s farmers still produce enough food to feed everyone, but the food is not where the hungry people are, and they often cannot afford to pay for it. A fundamental review of our food systems, food production and its impact on nature and biodiversity, and of nutrition and health was the core of the global agenda in the UN and its agencies in 2021 and at the World Farmers Organisation we ensured that the farmer’s voice was heard at each one of the debates.
In 2021 we managed to get the message to policy makers and consumers that farmers are not the problem to the contrary we are the only solution they have. That is why we deserve a place around the table.
In 2022 we need to give content to that voice and implement the solutions we proposed.
I want to challenge every farmer in South Africa and the world to make 2022 a year of action. I want to challenge you to take up a commitment towards your farm and your family. If every farmer can commit to pass on his small piece of the planet to the next generation in a better condition that he found it in, we will solve 90% of our problems with biodiversity, conservation, pollution, land degradation and climate.
Every farmer knows exactly what he or she can do better – let’s do it!
It all starts with soil health.
And it is in your hands! May it climb from there into your hearts!
May 2022 bring all the highlights of your farming career. May you have a blessed Christmas filled with love and care!