Creating jobs in rural Limpopo is all in a days’ work for female farmer and bio-diesel entrepreneur, Mosa Hope Mapheto.
Limpopo-based Mosa Hope Mapheto is a bio-diesel entrepreneur and a small-scale farmer employing youth. But when she moved back to the rural Limpopo town of Ga-Mphahlele from Tembisa, she didn’t set out to become either of these things. “I left my parents in Tembisa and relocated by myself – I wanted to bond with my grandparents. The decision to relocate was a blessing in disguise that worked for me years later,” she explains.
While Mosa was still at university in Pretoria she discovered social entrepreneurship when she attended a Red Bull Amaphiko event with a friend. “I was so fascinated with this concept and I wanted to become a ‘change maker’,” she says.
It was only when she visited Limpopo for the weekend when she saw an opportunity to make a real difference. “It dawned on me that most of my peers – the people I grew up with – were school drop outs, mostly due to socio-economic issues (such as coming from child-headed homes) and were unemployed.”
That’s where the idea for her youth farm stemmed, which she established in 2017. “We started in my grandparents’ backyard and sold beetroot and spinach to our local retail stores. At some point we stopped because we were not making enough profit; we started working with street hawkers and at pension pay points.”
“I got a lot of support from the community when I started the farming project. Since they already knew me, adapting was not a problem because I was familiar with the culture and the lifestyle.”
Mosa explains that they have four hectares of land and hope to receive some assistance to grow. She hopes to one day supply an agro-processing company.
It was during the start-up phase of her farm that Mosa stumbled onto the idea of producing bio-diesel. Bio-diesel is a renewable energy and an alternative to conventional fuels such as diesel. She was disturbed to discover that unscrupulous people sold used cooking oil for human consumption. “It got me worried [because this is very unhealthy]. Having done my research, I found out that used vegetable oil can be turned into bio-diesel. I had no knowledge of bio-diesel but I knew that I had to pursue this opportunity in order to disrupt the market of selling used vegetable oil.”
Fortunately, she found out about the Biofuels Business Incubator. After applying to and being accepted on the programme, she learnt all about bio-diesel. Considering that she’s currently looking for more used oil suppliers, it seems that she certainly disrupted the market!
However, her business is not without its challenges. “Currently we are operating on small scale at the Biofuels Business Incubator and using their production license. We want to acquire our own manufacturing license, but we first need to have an environmental impact assessment done. Our challenge is that I’d prefer to first lease a factory and then start with the manufacturing license process, but we currently don't have the funds to do so.”
It’s a tricky one to get right, because she takes turns with other incubatees to use the factory. Because of this, they cannot set up a stable production output to meet market demand.
Mosa didn’t wait for anything to fall onto her lap – she actively pursued all leads. She made use of available resources to help young entrepreneurs, such the Biofuels Business Incubator and Red Bull Amaphiko connect sessions. Her advice to other entrepreneurs? “Have a vision, then pursue it. We are a fortunate generation with help at our fingertips. I literally give myself time to search for any opportunities online, which could help me with the business growth. I ventured into the agriculture and bio-diesel industry with no experience, I ensured that I got a mentor to job shadow, attended relevant courses, and networked as much possible. It’s not easy to start anything from scratch; resources to start out will never be enough. Just start with what you have – everything will add up as you go along.”
Reach out to Mosa on 071 225 9206 or via LinkedIn.
Author: Leanne Feris