Farmers struggle to maintain food supplies amidst relentless load-shedding

Food insecurity is a growing concern amongst South Africans as farmers are put under tremendous pressure to feed the nation during load-shedding.

Dealing with load-shedding is a problem that every South African must face on a, seemingly, daily basis. The consequences of an inconsistent power supply to our commercial, governmental and residential properties are extensive and frustrating at the best of times. The persistence of recent load-shedding has had a particularly negative impact on the agricultural sector and the farmers working in the industry.

The effects of load-shedding on farming production costs, productivity, food prices and food security need to be carefully considered. An effort to create more sustainable, scalable and reliable energy supplies to the agricultural sector will be critical to ensuring South Africans can continue to feed our families and farmers can continue their critical role in our economy.

Food insecurity is rampant across the continent and African leaders need to ensure that agricultural production can continue in the face of challenges, like load-shedding or a pandemic. The importance of creating more reliable electricity supplies for farmers cannot be overstated. In order for farmers to successfully run their operations, harvest crops, produce goods and supply our country with food; they will require a reliable and dependable energy supply.

Electricity is a basic necessity in all commercial endeavours. From lights, cell phones and computers to electrical equipment and digital management systems, we need electricity to be able to function in our various professional capacities. In particular, farmers use electricity for pumping water, running farm equipment, harvesting crops, operating packing facilities and keeping their cold storage units functioning as needed.

There are many other basic functions, like online services, lighting, residential requirements and monitoring systems, that require consistent power supplies. If and when any of these processes are interrupted, it can lead to huge slowdowns and even preventing operations all together. The halting of production on farmlands can have many dire (and precipitous) consequences that will challenge South African consumers and the economy as a whole.

Something as simple as water pumps running inconsistently can throw an entire farm’s production line into disarray. Different crops require different irrigation schedules, soil moisture and temperature control that is very hard to maintain during periods of load-shedding. Even with adequate water supplies – which is not a given in South Africa – the ability to pump that water to the required irrigation systems will always require electricity and, often, some automation.

We cannot expect critical industries in our economy to ‘operate as usual’ when battling the scourge of load-shedding and inconsistent power supplies. Even for the most important commercial ventures, like those that sustain our food supply, there are no exceptions made to them for the devastation that load-shedding can cause. Farmers are a vital cog in the machine that helps nation’s economies run and must be protected against any and all interruptions.

The risk to our food security is just one of the many concerns that arise from load-shedding, but may end up being one of the most consequential. Beyond the economic impact of needing to import basic food supplies and drive external dependencies, the impact on individual South Africans and their families has many precipitating effects – leading to increased poverty, growing mortality and reduced social and professional capabilities.

The impact of power cuts on South African farms has many negative and far-reaching consequences that reverberate through the supply chain. It starts with impacting the availability of produce, which leads to higher prices for consumers and fewer competitive options arriving on our shelves. This means more money spent by consumers on less produce – and less produce supplied and sold by farmers.

A hard choice is given to end consumers: do you wish to feed yourselves and your family? Or do you wish to continue spending money on other necessary personal and professional necessities? Comparing the value of transportation, cell phone, rent or food costs is a near-impossible decision to make. South Africa’s poor communities are suffering just as much as the farmers trying to supply their food.

The knock-on effects of power instability in the agricultural sector are significant and affect every stakeholder in the supply chain. From farmers and street vendors to grocery stores and shoppers, food insecurity is a concern for all of us, whether we are consuming produce or selling produce. Work schedules, harvesting seasons and supply expectations become impossible to maintain as soon as load-shedding begins.

Simply put, food insecurity is a serious socio-economic concern facing all developing nations and, especially, those in Africa. Creating additional hurdles to the ones that already exist are a sure-fire means of stunting South Africa’s economic development and harming its citizenry. We, as a country and a people, need to find sustainable and renewable power generation alternatives that gives us some relief from the relentless load-shedding we are facing now.

In every industry, for every citizen, the consequences of continuing with load-shedding may only begin with waning food supplies, growing malnutrition and increasing poverty numbers. We can only speculate as to how severe these consequences could become, but we do know that food insecurity is one of the key social determinants of poverty and creating stable food supplies will be key for future economic development.

LeafySpace offers end-to-end renewable energy services backed by experienced and capable engineering team that are ready to tackle any energy challenge. While facing load-shedding, farmers need to find innovative ways to maintain their production schedules and continue their critical work. For more information on the best renewable energy or agri-business solutions, consider LeafySpace.

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