Double amputee farmer does not let setbacks derail his vision

Mbhazima Makhubele grows various vegetables without government support. /ANTONIO MUCHAVE
Mbhazima Makhubele grows various vegetables without government support. /ANTONIO MUCHAVE

A disabled Limpopo farmer Mbhazima Makhubele has beaten the odds to change the face of his remote village.

Makhubele, 70, of GaMamatlepa village in the Bolobedu area of Limpopo, had his legs amputated above the knees due to sugar diabetes in 2008.

Yet he is the most successful vegetable farmer in his community, with a 30-hectare piece of land where he farms various crops and employs 13 workers.

He initially started farming on a 5-hectare piece of land with two employees, and in 2004 secured the 30 hectares.

He has since become the toast of his community and an inspirational figure.

"It was not easy when we started and even now it is hectic because there is no government support. I have been growing tomatoes, chillies, green beans and marrows.

"The main challenge is lack of water and resources to expand this project and hire local people," he said.

"We draw water for irrigation from Molotsi River which has been experiencing low levels for many years."

Makhubele, who uses prosthesis to walk, sends most of his harvest to Johannesburg and Pretoria every month.

"The Gauteng market is what keeps these women you see here employed. We have been trying to get tractors and boreholes from government, but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears," he said.

Last year Makhubele was recognised as the best farmer in the category of people living with disabilities from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and received R60000 in cash.

The father of seven said despite all the challenges, he was happy he persevered because through farming, he managed to send his son to Wits university where he is an MBA student. Makhubele's employees, include 10 women and three men from his village and a neighbouring village.

One of his employees is a 71-year-old pensioner Mmamaropeng Mahani, a GaMamatlepa resident. She told Sowetan she had been working at the farm for 30 years.

"I raised all my five children while working here over 30 years. What you see here is because we didn't give up," Mhani said.

Another employee, Modjadji Mabulana, started working at the farm in 2010.

"Come August when the harvest season is over, some of us will be unemployed.

"But if we sustain our production with enough water, we will stay employed," she said.

Makhubele described himself as a philanthropist who regularly donated his harvest to locals whenever there was a funeral in the village.

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