When Mosa Hope Mapheto came face to face with the socio-economic issues burdening her community, she was determined to find solutions. The 26-year-old social entrepreneur and bio-diesel producer now creates opportunities for youth through her farming project and she’s turning unhealthy vegetable oil into bio-diesel.
Never in her wildest dreams did Mapheto imagine that she would be doing what she does today. She grew up in Tembisa, Gauteng with her parents, Rachel and Joel, and four siblings. Her family moved to Ga-Mphahlele in Limpopo when she was in grade 10. She remembers being very shy as a child and although that is still the case today, she is not letting it hinder her dreams.
In 2018, Mapheto made a shocking discovery. She noticed that there were businesses in the area where she lives that would bleach, repackage and sell used vegetable oil. She was deeply disturbed but saw an opportunity to come up with a healthy solution.
“I spotted an opportunity with Shell Petroleum. They had an AccelerateHer programme, which I applied to be part of. I got accepted and pursued the bio-diesel project. I am currently producing bio-diesel using used vegetable oil and I supply to a local construction company.”
Mapheto collects used vegetable oil from various fast food outlets in Pretoria and Johannesburg. She says the driving force behind her bio-diesel project is so that she can make a difference by limiting the used oil being bleached and sold to people. She completed her bio-diesel production training at Biofuels Business Incubator in 2019. And while she is working towards having her own production plant, Mapheto is using their facilities to produce her bio-diesel.
“I make 800 litres per week. The project is still in operation and I am using Biofuels Business Incubator’s facilities.”
“Currently I am looking for a bigger market for expansion so I can establish my own plant.”
She always wanted to help people and as a child she considered pursuing a career in either law or social work. However, when Mapheto finished school in 2011, she moved back to Gauteng and did a certificate in Information Technology at Central Johannesburg College. Later she completed a management assistance diploma from Ekhuruleni West College in 2014.
Soon she started asking herself serious questions about her future. “I felt trapped, like I was not living life to my fullest potential. I longed to live a life of purpose, but I didn’t know how to go about finding my true passion.” This introspection led to the birth of the youth farm project.
A friend introduced her to social entrepreneurship, the concept of addressing social, cultural and environmental issues through the development of financially sustainable solutions. Mapheto was highly inspired and knew that this is what she wanted to do. However, she didn’t exactly know where to begin.
“One weekend I went to Limpopo. Having met with my peers that I grew up with, I noticed that we are faced with a lot of socio-economic issues. The majority dropped out of school at an early age because they were the leaders of child-headed homes. The unemployment rate was high and so was poverty and malnutrition.”
While she was haunted by her community’s predicament, Mapheto continued to think of possible solutions. She attended a Red Bull Amaphiko connect session, where those interested in social entrepreneurship can find support, and realised that agriculture could help combat the problems her people are confronted with.
With the little money she saved, Mapheto moved back to Limpopo to start a youth-led farm, My Tomorrow Academy, in her grandparents’ backyard. The project kicked off in 2016 with 15 young people. A month later the local department of agriculture offered to assist them in showing others how to plant and maintain their crops.
“Although I was excited, it was an uncomfortable move. My lifestyle had to completely change. I also had a lot to learn as I had no agricultural experience.”
Although the project has now been put on hold, she plans to get it up and running on a 4-hectare piece of land she inherited from her late grandfather in Ga-Mphahlele.
The 2017 SME Toolkit Regional Business Plan winner says the journey has not been easy on her, but she continues to rise above. She says, “These two industries are male-dominated; I get a lot of intimidation. I’ve come to disrupt the industry, and I aim to create opportunities for women to tap into these fields.”