- Many people who grew up in townships are familiar with hawkers who sell used cooking oil for human consumption
- These street traders buy their stock from restaurants and usually sell it to poverty-stricken households
- One entrepreneur is using the waste product to covert into biodiesel
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By Farai Diza - Freelance Journalist
Some unscrupulous dealers repackage used cooking oil for sale without labelling the fundamental health consequences.
Township and rural dwellers are accustomed to using used cooking oil as the heart of their meals.
Besides being a cost-saver, used cooking oil comes with health concerns.
An aspiring entrepreneur has taken it upon herself to stop used cooking oil from finding it's way into people's kitchens by repurposing it's composite.
She has embarked on an ambitious initiative that converts that oil to biodiesel. Biodiesel is an environmentally-friendly energy fuel.
It is also affordable and gives engines a longer lifespan because of its clean nature.
Having grown up in the rural areas, Musa Maphetho is all too familiar with the trend around purchasing used cooking oil. She has seen how trees have been felled for energy purposes. So her initiative clobbered two birds with one stone.
She told YEN.com.gh:
"I was raised in a rural community and in my growing up I realised that there was so much consumption of used cooking oil. The rural folks often ignore the health hazards attached to that oil and some unscrupulous business people even buy it from restaurants, repackage it and sell it to communities."
With many households in rural South Africa relying on pension grants, village dwellers often favour the used oil.
"I took it upon myself to make a meaningful difference in my community and presenting biodiesel as an energy alternative was one way.
"Making people understand the dangers of cooking with used oil was another. In the end, a product was born," said the 27-year-old from Mphahlele.
Mphahlele is located just outside Lebowakgomo on the outskirts of the Limpopo province.
Maphetho was born in Ekurhuleni but she migrated to Limpopo as a teenager to live with her grandparents.
The biodiesel space is currently a preserve for a few in South Africa. It is not surprising that internationally-acclaimed Red Bull TV featured Maphetho's worthy project in a six-part series called Walk A Mile In My Shoes.
"Biodiesel can be used in any household. In fact, it is an architect of growing the economy. We have load-shedding nowadays and people resort to using unorthodox methods as energy supplies.
"If more people are able to produce biodiesel, then consumers can use generators and life would become so much better for those in the rural areas," she said.
She has taken it upon herself to assist her community that is in dire need of food aid through her company GreatFuel and her project Germination Hub.
This follows the realisation that repurposing used cooking oil has a negative bearing on their kitchens as they can't afford regular cooking oil.
"We have socio-economic issues in the rural areas. I teach them farming skills so that they can generate some sort of income. I have also partnered with an NGO, Mphahlele Homecoming, which takes our product and supplies it to over 200 families once every week," she added.
Maphetho was recently afforded another opportunity by petroleum giants Shell who were looking for businesses run by young entrepreneurs that needed funding to grow.
They gave her an opportunity to research biodiesel through an incubator programme. When the Covid-19 sensation kicked in, she was in the process of acquiring funding as she aims to supply petroleum companies and businesses with a cheaper energy source.
Her quest to have a biodiesel plant seems a far-fetched dream due to the Covid-19 pandemic that has temporarily stalled the business cycle, but she still holds onto that dream.
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