Food4Africa is the vision of one man on a mission

Saturday Star, 14 October 2006
By Sheena Adams

Founded by a former businessman, Food4Africa is one of several NGOs in South Africa providing food aid to communities in need.

Vryheid-based Gordon Minott is a man with an extraordinary passion for helping poor families, and the organisation partners with local community groups to feed thousands of people a day in the northern parts of KwaZulu Natal and “absolutely horrific” parts of the Eastern Cape, 14 500 people are fed every day.

The NGO also provides food to be distributed in other provinces, including the Etwatwa area in Gauteng. Projects will soon be coming to Limpopo and North West too.

Minott says the 520 000 starving children on the organisation’s database in the two provinces are merely the tip of the iceberg. He estimates that 70% of the country’s people has no ready access to food.

Three years ago, at the launch of a R1,2 billion food relief project, Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya said the department had identified nearly 245 000 households around the country which constituted “the poorest families”, with no income to buy food.

It’s a boggling state of affairs. How, in a country that exported more than 1 300 tons of maize in one week last month, can more than a million people be starving?

The answer lies in the price level of food in South Africa, unaffordable to a large proportion of citizens, according to Hilton Zunckel, a senior trade advisor at the commercial law firm Floor Incorporated.

Zunckel says South Africa, on average, produces a large enough surplus of maize to generate export produce. However, it is the affordability of the product that is a problem.

Food4Africa has been intrinsically involved in trying to help the Ingwavuma municipality in northern KwaZulu Natal deliver basic services – up until about four months ago, anyway. That’s when “paralegals” – funded by the NGO and placed in the municipality to help fast-track the processing of child grants – were ejected by the municipality. The community was also without piped water for seven months last year, relying on water trucks for intermittent supply.

“People were walking for 5km to get it. So we had to put in a borehole. The municipality just doesn’t care,” Minott says.

The NGO also supports about 1 300 people in an HIV/Aids home-based care programme in KwaZulu Natal. “These are bedridden people. They send a child about 4 or 5 kilometres to fetch food and bring it back.”

Organisations like Food4Africa appear to be the only lifeline for people like the Ingwavuma children – orphaned by disease and left to fend for themselves.

Ntokozo Khuluse, spokesperson for KZN Social Services MEC Inkosi Nyanga Ngubane, confirmed that “nothing was taking place” with respect to food parcels. “The project has been halted because of certain problems and disputes with the tenders,” he said.

Minott is due to travel to the US next month to meet “huge industrial players”, where he will appeal for partners to help fund the NGO. Larry Jones, the founder of Feed the Children, a non-profit organization based in the US, had already agreed in principle to partner with Food4Africa in getting more meals to more children.