Sibusiso Mogale is a farmer from eNgodini, Mbombela in Mpumalanga who produces chickens and organic vegetables. He knows the struggles that many small-scale farmers across Mzansi face, but he is up against a major challenge that the more typical farmer does not have to contend with.
Born without hands due to a congenital condition called phocomelia, Mogale works his entire 1.5-hectare farm mainly using his feet. This is how he prepares the soil for planting a variety of vegetables and tends to the chickens in his 2000-capacity chicken house.
“When I was younger there were certain things that I felt were unfair, but now that I am older I have a different, positive recollection of how good my upbringing was,” he says.
The 33-year-old go-getter has never let his difference get in his way, earning his way into a prestigious school on a sports scholarship and later representing South Africa in swimming events across the world.
Growing up in eNgodini with a disability wasn’t without challenges. Raised by his grandmother, who serves as an inspiration on his farming journey, Mogale recalls being rejected by “able-bodied” schools due to fears of bullying.
“They felt like they were protecting me, but perhaps they were protecting themselves,” he says.
He had to attend a school for disabled children in Johannesburg from Grade 3 until Grade 11 were he pushed himself to excel in swimming. His excellence afforded him a swimming scholarship in an “able-bodied” private school in Bedfordview when he was still doing Grade 11.
“I can’t cry for something I don’t have. If I need to eat and farm with my feet I will do so, because that’s all I have and I will use it to the fullest.”
“Before I came to the school, they had a meeting with all the kids in the assembly to announce the boy who’s joining them with arms. Most guys were weird around me because they were told not to be offensive towards me. Honestly, that was a bit tough.