A new study on food insecurity by an alliance of the United Nations (UN) – Global Network Against Food Crises – governmental and non-governmental agencies has been analysing what is fuelling global food crises and examining how the COVID-19 pandemic is perpetuating downward cycles for millions around the world. The study found that at the end of 2019, around 135 million people across 55 countries experienced acute food insecurity. These people require urgent food, nutrition and livelihood assistance for survival. Within 47 of these countries, an additional 183 million people were found to be living in so-called ‘stressed conditions’ or on the verge of slipping into acute hunger if hit with a shock such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is against this background that Lockhat Incorporated, an accounting and audit firm with offices in Durban and Port Shepstone, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), as well as Centurion in Gauteng, recently undertook an initiative to sponsor and deliver food hampers to various rural communities in the Eastern Cape and KZN. This was also in response to a call by one of the firm’s clients after discovering the desperate need for food by villagers in some of the outskirts of the two provinces during the country’s recent Level 5 lockdown.
And so, on the 20 April Imraan Lockhat, managing partner of Lockhat Incorporated and chairman of the Southern District of SAICA, together with his six staff members travelled 122 km south of Port Shepstone to distribute 140 food parcels to the villages of Lukholo, Lurholweni and Xholobeni in Bizana, Eastern Cape.
Lockhat describes the experience: ‘The roads were treacherous and extremely bumpy at times, especially when vehicles had to move onto dirt roads to reach the most remote villages of Bizana. These communities rarely see, if any, visits from government officials. We felt that more needed to be done and took up the challenge by initially donating R100 000. After seeing the depth of the problem faced by the community, we also decided to get more sponsors involved to fund a second and more ambitious trip.’
In a short space of time, the firm was able to raise a further R200 000 thanks to some of his clients. ‘Five clients contributed a total of R30 000 each and our firm added another R50 000. This enabled us to plan a second trip into more remote villages of the Eastern Cape and KZN. We managed to put together 400 food hampers, each consisting of 25 kg of maize, 2 kg of sugar, one litre of cooking oil, soya mince, soup mix, bags of potatoes, onions and 10 kg of rice. That is enough to feed an average family of four to six people for up to six weeks.’
As the country moved to Level 4, Lockhat and his team embarked on a second trip: ‘We loaded two trucks in Flagstaff about 280 km south of Durban with over 400 food hampers and then proceeded to seven villages within the Mkhambathi area. The villages we visited were among the hardest hit by the lockdown. We salute our team for heeding the call, unpacking the trucks and handing out these hampers to the villagers on all the trips.’
He encourages all South Africans, particularly fellow business leaders, to heed the call to help those in desperate need during the pandemic. ‘We all live in society and we don’t want to live off society. If you are concentrating only on what is in front of you and ignoring problems all around you, your long-term triple bottom line reporting and value-add to the economy will not be great. The sustainability of business needs to be concentrated on everybody. It’s not a matter of budget. Start small. When we started our firm, we could only afford to donate R10 000 to community projects. Now we are able to contribute way more than that. Essentially, when you put out goodness into the world, it comes back to you.’
With life-saving humanitarian activities such as this by organisations like Lockhat Incorporated during the COVID-19 pandemic, the accountancy profession is once again demonstrating why it is a profession of national value and how it contributes to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
For more, watch the Lockhat team’s video on this amazing initiative below.