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Farm workers shielded from coronavirus

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Mpumalanga east farm owner, Mr. David Lesese
Mpumalanga east farm owner, Mr. David Lesese

by ANNA NTABANE
MBOMBELA, (Mpumalanga Guardian)
RECENTLY announcing government’s implementation of a three-week lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa underscored the crucial role agriculture would play in ensuring the nation does not grind to a standstill.

Farm workers, agriculture companies exempted from lockdown.

While other workers have minimal chances of contracting the virus, spare a thought to farm workers that are exposed to it during hours spent tilling the lands.

It is in the backdrop of this vulnerability that the Mpumalanga Provincial Government has embarked on an awareness campaign to promote safety among farmers during this period when the COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in the country.

Vusi Shongwe, Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) for Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs, is leading the campaign.

Farmers received tips to protect themselves against the virus.

They were supplied with gloves, masks and sanitisers.

Shongwe emphasised the key role played by farm workers, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“It’s our duty to produce and feed the nation. Production in farms cannot stop but we must be safe as we produce food for communities,” he said.

“The safety of workers in farms should be a priority to all of us. Should the workers get infected, it could also affect the very same products they are working on.”

He added, “Our department is classified as essential service because food production cannot be postponed but we should not underestimate the danger posed by this virus” Shongwe said.

Shongwe said the protective gear would last farmers for the duration of the lockdown that ends on the 16th of this month.

David Lesese, a local farm owner, disclosed farmers were working in shifts of lower numbers as part of measures to curb the spread of the virus.

“We are managing as long as our employees know how to use the safety products supplied to them to protect themselves and their colleagues from catching the virus,” Lesese said.

The eastern Mpumalanga is one of South Africa’s farming hubs.