“Selokong sa dimelana” means “a place where things grow” in sePedi. It wasn’t necessarily that way when Thabang Mabapa started his castor seed farming and refinery project in 2014.
The search for a plot of land took him to Muila village in Limpopo, where the chief granted him marginal fields that previously failed to yield crops. With the help of experienced farmers in the village, Mabapa turned that around
and Selokong sa Dimelana was granted 100 hectares of farmlands in Muila.
Today, the castor farm employs 15 workers, and is assisted by almost 60 volunteers. Mabapa also works with chemistry departments at Wits University and UJ to cold-press the castor oil.
The oil has over 600 uses, but Selokong sa Dimelana is focused on just one: Biofuel.
“It’s a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. It’s clean, and has lubricating properties that prolong the lifespan of engines,” says Mabapa. Through a collaboration with international organisation, Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials, Selokong sa Dimelana will soon be supplying jet fuel to South African airlines.
He also supplies castor oil to a cosmetics company. Mabapa is the 2016 Spark International South African Changemaker of the Year recipient and says that he wants rural areas to be places where many things grow, including thriving industries.
“It’s not your 9 – 5 that counts, it’s the hours between opening your eyes and closing them.”