Farming without arms – how Sibusiso Mogale farms chickens, vegetables using only his feet

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Sibusiso Mogale does what he loves the most.
Sibusiso Mogale does what he loves the most.

When he does something, he always gives it his all. 

He was a Paralympian who represented South Africa overseas in different sporting fields. 

Now he works in a different field altogether. 

Sibusiso Mogale was born without arms but he hasn't let that stand in the way of his business. He's a successful farmer who uses his feet to do just about anything he needs to do. 

This is not the first time he's talked to Drum. He was a teenager living in Mpumalanga, Nelspruit the last time the magazine caught up with him.

Now he's 34 and fulfilling different dreams. 

“The last time I spoke to Drum, how old was I? I was still a teenager, tjoh! I was a kid and I wasn’t even dreaming about becoming a farmer at the time. I was probably in Grade 10, I think. I can’t recall but it was this beautiful two-page article about me,” shares the delighted Sibusiso.

When he spoke to Drum at the time, he tells us that he was the toast and talk of the town as he’d just gotten an honorary award from the sports MEC in Gauteng that is dedicated to his outstanding performance.

“I used to do a lot of sports throughout my schooling journey, and it was one thing that consumed most of my time, energy, and I dedicated my whole life to it because I loved sports so much that I became very good at it. And opportunities started opening up to a point that I even represented South Africa overseas, you know in Brazil, England, and the list goes on.”

A gentleman, Sibusiso is bubbly, kind, and very outspoken as he takes us through his farming journey. 

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Sibusiso was born without arms. He tells Drum that it was due to a disability called phocomilia.

“We don’t know what the cause of it was but there is a speculation that my mom could’ve taken medication that was perhaps removed from the shelves but assuming the fact that the hospital was in the rural side of Nelspruit and might have them longer to remove them [medication] as opposed to the other hospitals that are closer to town or in town. But those are assumptions.”

He had to move to different locations as a child in search of a school that could cater to his needs. He says the one that was close from home couldn’t accept him.

“One of the reasons was that they didn’t know how to teach someone like me and the other reason was that kids would make fun of me. So my mom got me a school in Limpopo, called Helen Frans and I was there for three years then moved from Limpopo to Gauteng at a school called Hope School in Joburg near Zoo Lake.”

He then received a scholarship to study at the prestigious Bishop Bavin school in Gauteng. He says this, however, was not a special school. After completing his matric, Sibusiso enrolled for a qualification in finance at Boston City College.

“I worked in a finance company and then I came back home in 2014 and got a job at the department of social development for a year before I got a better position at Transnet thereafter went into farming full time.”

Sibusiso Mogale
Sibusiso Mogale on his farm

Sibusiso recalls falling for agriculture when he watched his grandmother, Joana Nyamatane Nkosi ploughing in her backyard.

“I was with her and she was planting mealies. Some of the seeds were dropping in the ground and I remember taking a few with my feet and started pushing them in the ground, separating them because I’ve seen how she separates them as well and I marked the area where I planted them. I would water them daily because I only had I small portion.

“And after three months or so, it was all green and grown, it had mealies, and some of the family members picked on what I planted and my granny made sure that she told them that I was the one who planted them. We were roasting them on the fire outside.”

He says this was the best feeling and he never forgot it. “I was so proud because it was ‘I did that’ and for once I could be proud of something that I did without having to include somebody else in my pride because most of the times it is hard to take credit because there’s always someone assisting.”

He says his love for farming comes from his grandmother. “It was her who made me love what I do so this much.”

He’s just been allocated a new farm by the minister of agriculture, Thokozile Didiza, as he talks to us.

“And we are currently trying to finalise the paperwork so that we can start farming on that farm but it is in Nelspruit and it is not far from where I stay. I will be staying on the farm because that is part of the package of being funded.

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“That will be the first farm that belongs to me now because the one that people know me for, it was on lease. So probably I will be starting to farm now in January or February.”

Sibusiso calls himself a mixed farmer. He says although he loves ploughing vegetables, chickens are also in the equation.

“I do two types of chickens, broilers which are meat chickens and then layers which are egg laying chickens. Then the vegetables, you know, anything between cucumbers, carrots, beetroots, onions, tomatoes,” and his favourite, cabbage.

“I am so used to it because we have had it a lot when I was growing up and my grandmother really knew how to cook it so she will make it with meat, whether it is chicken or beef and bones.”

He tells us he still pretty much uses his feet to plough because it is how he started. He has also opened up job opportunities for young people.

“I still use my feet because that is how I started. I use my feet for a lot of things, if not everything. I don’t have to bend much because it will take a toll on my back so I do lot of the tasks on the field using my feet.

“I am very handy," he quips.

"I don’t know if that even make sense because I am using my feet so how can I be handy?" he laughs.

"But when we speak of a field that is quite big – and not a size of a backyard – I would need workers.”

Sibusiso Mogale
Sibusiso Mogale
Sibusiso Mogale
Sibusiso Mogale
Sibusiso Mogale
Sibusiso Mogale on his farm
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