The Democratic Alliance is driving a petition to urge President Cyril Ramaphosa to lead the protection of rural communities.The party says it has received thousands of signatures from concerned residents.It says it launched a campaign on rural safety as a result of "the unprecedented number of attacks on people who live in rural communities".DA shadow minister for Economic Development, Ina Cilliers, said a total number of 184 farm attacks and 20 farm murders have been recorded across the country since the start of the year. "Gauteng has recorded the highest number of attacks with 51 incidents. At the end of 2018, there were 29 000 reported cases of livestock theft in South Africa. This is costing us billions, and is taking its toll on our agricultural economy. A University of South Africa (UNISA) study on rural safety found that R1.3 billion was lost to livestock theft in one year."The increased attacks on our farming communities is as a result of a lack of political leadership. The government’s Rural Safety Strategy has been a dismal failure because police stations in the most hard-hit rural areas are understaffed and under-resourced. SAPS is increasingly unable to protect rural communities," she said.Ensuring food securityFarming plays a major role in creating employment opportunities, ensuring food security and contributing to the GDP.She said urgent interventions are needed, listing several:• Rural Safety Units must be reintroduced and properly resourced;• Innovation in new technology such as surveillance drones, ShotSpotter andgeofencing must be explored as a matter of urgency;• SAPS must declare rural crime a priority, and keep separate and accurate statistics sothat the success or failure of interventions can be measured;• The Reservist Programme in farm areas must be properly implemented with aconcerted effort to recruit and train farmers, farm workers and farm dwellers;"We call on all South Africans to help keep our rural communities safe by signing the below petition which is to be handed over to the president. Food producers are a national asset and they cannot work if they are not safe. Our rural communities are under siege, which is impacting on our food security. We need to act now! #RuralSafety," said Cilliers.