It feels like a lifetime has passed since our last printed edition, for time has indeed passed slowly in our state-enforced six week-to-two-month stay-at-home holiday. Yet, in that time an awful lot has happened, and we have all learnt a great deal about many things. We have learnt about this damned little virus and what it does, and does not, do. We have learnt about how stupid some politicians can be, and how brutal some can become when given a little bit of (quite possibly unconstitutional) authority. And, if we have being paying attention to the economy, we would have learnt how intertwined and complex a modern economy really is.
And, of course, we have learnt what two months of lockdown, with stupid and arbitrary bans on the sale of certain goods “for our own good”, can do to destroy jobs, livelihoods ~ and even the economy itself.
When I wrote my comment for our interim e-edition published online in April it was clear that there was very little clarity about how, and when, the crisis caused by this virus would end.
Maybe now we have a slightly better idea. Simply, that it’s not going to end any time soon. And it’s not going to end well.
Having made those two points it is also worth saying that an awful lot of hot air is being generated by “pundits” giving their views, often alarmist, as to how awful the outcome is going to be, whether one is led by a Trump, a Johnson, a Bolsonaro or a Ramaphosa (or, some would add, by a Dlamini-Zuma…). Yes, sadly, the Press, in trying to report the news as best it can, has at times fuelled certain quarters to alarm, and even panic.
Where does this leave us, the smallholders of Gauteng? And what can we do to help ourselves overcome our own financial miseries, and those around us whose misery may be even greater than our own?
It’s pretty obvious, really, but sadly, not many of us are doing it: Grow vegetables for yourself and those less fortunate around you.
Smallholders of all sorts are, by definition, blessed with abundant ground yet our research (albeit carried out some years ago) showed that a surprisingly small number grew food, even part of their requirements, for their own consumption, let alone for sale (or for donation to a charity…).
Is this changing? We certainly hope so, and judging by the run on packets of vegetable seeds that many smallholder shops have experienced in recent weeks, it would seem that some smallholders at least spent some of their lockdown time planting veg gardens. Good for them.
A retail sized bag of, say, cabbage or carrot seed is hardly going to get one started in the commercial market gardening industry, but on a smallholding even such a modest amount will, if handled properly, provide more than enough for one’s family, one’s staff, and for those in one’s own community who have fallen on hard times. For, look around your area. I’ll bet you that behind the walls or fences of one or two plots there are families who have suddenly found themselves without a breadwinner, and who are bewildered and frightened. And quite possibly hungry.
Moreover, I have found that in most smallholding areas there are homes for the destitute, for the homeless, or for the physically- or mentally-disabled. Such institutions invariably survive on charities and donations, and charities and donors are in the same boat as the rest of us: they’ve run out of money.
So, if you want to do something to help in this crisis, something really practical, plant vegetables. And when they’re ready, harvest them and clean them up a bit, then put them into old feed sacks and take a drive round your suburb to the homes and havens and simply dish the stuff out. You’ll find grateful hands to take it from you, and it’ll make you feel immensely good that you’re able to do good towards your neighbours.