Musa Mapheto tests the finished biodiesel product readiness for use at Tompi Seleka College of Agriculture, Marble Hall, Limpopo.  Picture: Lindsey Appolis/Red Bull Content Pool
Musa Mapheto tests the finished biodiesel product readiness for use at Tompi Seleka College of Agriculture, Marble Hall, Limpopo. Picture: Lindsey Appolis/Red Bull Content Pool

How a young Limpopo woman is using cooking oil to drive economy and save lives

By Mpiletso Motumi Time of article published Jun 17, 2020

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Musa Mapheto’s projects stem from the love of her community.

One of those projects has seen her delve into the biodiesel space. It is because of this that she has also been featured in a six-part series featured on Red Bull TV called Walk a Mile in My Shoes. The show focuses on social entrepreneurs and the work they do for their communities.

“Coming from a rural community, I noticed there was so much consumption of used cooking oil and we know how many health issues come with that. The businesses that sell the oil would buy used cooking oil from restaurants and repackage it then sell it to the communities.

“For me that was a concern and I wanted to do something about it. Using the oil to make biodiesel will go a long way,” said Mapheto.

The 27-year-old grew up in Ekurhuleni but as a teenager she moved to Mphahlele, Limpopo to live with her grandparents. The community just outside Lebowakgomo has many families that are in need of food supply. With her company GreatFuel and her project Germination Hub, Mapheto is set to make a lasting difference.

“Biodiesel and petroleum can drive the economy. We have loadshedding and people having to use candles. If we produce biodiesel people can get generators and lives could be saved,” she said.

Through the help of incubator projects, Mapheto is also able to empower the youth in the community to start farming initiatives of their own.

“I teach them farming skills then empower them to have their own backyard gardens. We have socio economic issues in the rural areas.”

Mapheto believes it will be a complex task to take on as a business.

“I spotted an opportunity with Shell. They were looking for young entrepreneurs to help grow their businesses. I applied with my farming project but they needed a business that would be able to supply Shell with its product. I decided to present the vegetable oil idea and they offered me a chance to research biodiesel and then I got into the incubator programme.”

Mapheto says the advantages of biodiesel are that it is environmentally friendly, affordable and much safer for engines giving cars a longer life span.

While the biodiesel project has has been halted as restaurants are not fully operational during the Covid19 lockdown Mapheto has been busy with other community driven projects.

“We’ve been focusing more on the agricultural project. We partnered with the NGO Mphahlele Homecoming. They take our product and supply it to over 200 families on a weekly basis.”

Mapheto and her partners are focused on helping families sustain themselves through their own produce. Though the future may be uncertain due to Covid-19, her dream of a fully functional biodiesel company remains.

“I was in the process of getting my facility, acquiring funds to start, and putting systems into place. In the long run I hope I will be able to supply petroleum companies and businesses nearby to run on cheaper fuel,” said Mapheto.

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