A powerful gift to those who give

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

A nougat factory located in Merweville has been assisting drought-stricken farmers in the area for some time now. This small business, Karoo Blessings, recently also received assistance in the form of a solar system worth R175 000 donated to them in April by the agricultural assistance scheme, the Agri Relief Foundation (ARF).

Read this press release in Afrikaans.

“What a blessing out of the blue! And just as we were in the process of informing our clients that their orders would be late due to load shedding,” says Marian Esterhuizen, co-owner of nougat manufacturer, Karoo Blessings.

Load shedding caused the small factory to grind to a halt time and again. Nougat cannot be made if there is moisture in the air and Merweville is ideally located for nougat manufacturing, as it is a very dry area. Nevertheless they have a dehumidifier running in the factory at all times to ensure dry conditions during the manufacturing process. “But as soon as our machines are ready to start working, load shedding hits and everything comes to a standstill.”

Small business, big heart

“The main reason why the ARF offered to assist us with a solar system is because we donate R30 from each Boere Blessings box that we sell, to drought-stricken farmers,” Esterhuizen explains. “This is a long-term, sustainable project.”

Marian and her business partner, Suzaan Theron, initiated the boere boks project in 2020 after a crippling seven-year long drought had farmers in the area reeling. “Both of us are natural givers, but the drought stole our ‘giving’. So we started the boere boks project. It gave us the opportunity to start giving, without it costing us much.”

The two friends decided to focus on the struggling community in the Merwewille church’s boundaries, as this allowed them to determine who could be helped and who not. “At the time there were 70 farmers in our district and we made contact with all of them.”

In the end, 50 of the 70 farmers accepted assistance. The remaining 20 were mostly business people (lifestyle farmers) or pensioners who could count on their pension income. Ten of them did, however, request assistance in the form of livestock feed and medication.

“These are proud people and their acceptance of our help was a very clear indicator of just how dire their situations were. Admitting to a fellow farmer’s wife that you need help, isn’t easy. There really was no other way out for them,” says Marian.

Read more about how Karoo-farmers are going off the grid with solar.

We know the struggle

Both Marian and Suzaan are married to farmers and have first-hand knowledge of how a drought can affect a farming enterprise. In fact, Marian’s husband, Joubert, also received assistance in the form of livestock feed from the drought assistance fund.

“The government did give drought assistance for which we were incredibly thankful. It meant that many farmers did not have to sell their land. However, it wasn’t sufficient and we had to draw on our own community to assist.”

Marian says it makes a huge difference to one’s heart and mind to know that someone actually thought of you when they made a donation, however small.

Currently, Karoo Blessings is offering assistance to only 32 farmers in the Merwewille area. “The other 18 are still struggling, but things are looking up for them so they decided to take a backseat so that their fellow farmers can receive more support. Unfortunately we know that it is going to take many years’ worth of rain to break a decade’s worth of drought. We might never make up for what we’ve lost.”

Grace comes in many forms, she says. “Sometimes God sends down rain, but at other times he sends a bar of nougat or a gift box or something else.”

The solar gift

And sometimes grace comes in the form of a solar power system, like the one donated by the ARF. The ARF was established to assist farmers during times of crises. Agriculturalists have to face many risks such as natural disasters, unfavourable production and market conditions, an undesirable political climate and crime.

While there are numerous insurance plans and other mechanisms available to manage and mitigate risk, it isn’t always possible or practical to proactively manage all the risks faced daily by South African farmers. This is where the ARF, a non-profit organisation, can assist farmers during times of need. This assistance can be either financial or take on other forms.

The current board of directors consists of Dr Frikkie Maré, academic head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of the Free State, Ernst Janovsky, a retired agricultural economist and former head of Absa Agribusiness, Johan van den Berg, agricultural metrologist with more than 36 years’ experience, and Anton Niemann, former general manager of lubricants at Shell.

Animal health company, Zoetis, an Agribonus member who makes quarterly donations to the ARF, requested the board earlier this year to assist Karoo Blessings with a donation. The ARF board agreed that this small business brings a lot of relief to a quite a number of farmers, and that it would make perfect sense to assist them in keeping their doors open and their equipment running. The donation ensured that they can continue working and giving. – press release, Agri Relief Foundation

More information:

Agri Relief Foundation: Visit www.agriref.co.za or email info@agriref.co.za.

Karoo Blessings: 083 659 4684, email karoo.blessings@gmail.com or visit Karoo Blessings | Merwewille on Facebook.

Lutz Nell, managing director of Agribonus: 082 565 4865

Frik van der Westhuizen, CEO of MyBonus: 082 490 6274

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