When Sabina Khoza started her chicken farm in Gauteng many years ago with a group of willing workers but no skills, she never imagined that she would one day be honoured as a leading farmer in her community.
Khoza, 55, who started Fair Deal Poultry Farm 18 years ago with 11 farmworkers and 10 chickens, said she could not even afford to pay her workers initially.
"I had to pay my workers with a bag of mealie meal," she said.
Since then, the farm has continued to grow in leaps and bounds from being solely a chicken farm to one that now also produces and sells vegetables and mealie meal.
Prospective farmers were also being trained on the farm and Khoza said that 1041 students had so far been trained.
In addition these farmers had moved out of the shacks they were living in and built their own houses.
Last week Khoza's hard work paid off when Sowetan, Old Mutual, SABC and the provincial Social Services Department honoured Gauteng's unsung heroes at the provincial Community Builder of the Year Awards at Ubuntu Kraal, Soweto.
Khoza said she was delighted about being nominated as a finalist because "it's very important for me to help my community".
"Being honoured in this way means everything to me and all the money will go towards improving the farm," she said.
MEC for social development Kgaogelo Lekgoro said: "It's important that we honour these people who selflessly volunteer to make a difference to our society."
Old Mutual's Samuel Ogbu said the awards "are a small way to honour and show our appreciation to the community builders".
Khoza and the other Gauteng winners each walked away with R10000 prize money and a certificate of recognition.
The other provincial nominees will be announced in KwaZulu-Natal on June 15, Limpopo on June 22, Eastern Cape on June 29, Mpumalanga on July 6, Free State on July 13, Western Cape on July 20, Northern Cape on July 27 and North West on August 3.