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Exxaro Powers Possibility for Budding Entrepreneur

Growing up, Thabitha Chauke had a keen interest in farming; something she inherited from her father. After growing vegetables on land owned by her parents, near Hlagakwena village, Thabitha wanted more. What began as a small farm holding, soon turned into a fully sustainable enterprise made possible by Exxaro.


Thabitha first became exposed to farming when her father secured a job at the Department of Agriculture as a driver. From there, she began to realise just how sustainable growing your own vegetables can be and hoped to one day run her own fully functioning vegetable farm. While she knew it would be no small feat, Thabitha was up for the challenge. Her first step towards success? Finding the right people to help fund her growing business.


After committing to becoming a farmer, Thabitha quickly discovered she did not have the means to purchase the right equipment or to hire the right staff. She approached different businesses in the hope of finding someone who would appreciate her vision but was instead turned away. “I continued asking for help but didn’t receive any assistance,” said Thabitha. A visit to Exxaro soon changed that.

 

“By the time Thabitha arrived at our office, we were already working on how best to support young women looking to venture into farming,” said Malapile Chokoe, Practitioner of Community Development at Exxaro. The team recognised Thabitha’s passion and drive and wanted to reward her drive to do more. Initially, the coal producer invested R1.1 million in the project which allowed Thabitha to purchase much-needed equipment like a tractor, bakkie and a water pump. “We realised along the way that we weren’t doing enough,” said Chokoe who then arranged to fund a further R1 million which he hoped would make more of an impact.

In total, Exxaro has invested about R3 million in this project. This investment started by procuring the services of an experienced local farmer, who provided operational mentorship for this project. The investment included construction of the farm storage area, fencing, as well as providing accredited Agri-Business Skills training and basic farming necessities like a tractor, ploughing implements, seedlings, chemicals and fertilizers.


“The equipment that they provided and the skills they gave to us – it made the farm what it is today,” said Thabitha. Before she knew it, Thabitha had employed six permanent staff members who received technical training on agricultural methods and produce farming. “I remember we planted 1 hectare of butternuts – just the two of us,” said Ishmael Moiiwa Chauke, Manager at Amokelani Farm. “That’s when I realised that I am a farmer”.

 

Besides the many walk-in clients, Amokelani now supplies the town of Lephalale, as well as the Pretoria municipal market. Having recognised her potential, Exxaro has helped Thabitha build a self-sufficient and profitable enterprise.

 

The now successful entrepreneur stresses the importance around the need for companies to invest in businesses like her own. While it’s an important part of making a living, it benefits communities far and wide, and encourages those to pursue their dreams irrelevant of the card life has dealt them.