Strengthening Livelihoods, Transforming Lives: Wilson’s Story
For someone with no formal education, securing employment in a remote mountain village in South Africa can be difficult. But Wilson Mphaphuli, who was born with a deformed leg, it seemed impossible. Despite this challenge, Wilson became the leader of the Thabelo Association for the Disabled, a struggling farming cooperative located in a remote village that works to feed and support an extended household of approximately 40 family members.
Before INMED, Wilson had lived in the village his entire life and had never been employed. As he explains, “It is always difficult to find employment when you are disabled and with no formal education. People always opt to employ able-bodied people.”
Through INMED’s Adaptive Agriculture Program, the Thabelo group received a commercial-scale aquaponics system—an innovative, high-yield, simplified technology combining aquaculture and hydroponics—and trained the group in more efficient, sustainable, traditional agriculture practices. Now, the program has transformed Wilson’s outlook and his prospects for self-sufficiency. “We now see things in a different way and we now always have hope for a better future which we didn’t have before,” he said.
“We now always have hope for a better future which we didn’t have before… INMED has given us our hope and confidence back, and we now see ourselves becoming commercial farmers, and for that we will always be grateful.”
When the area was hard-hit by severe storms, all of the group’s traditional crops were wiped out by flooding. Yet the aquaponic crops grown in the sturdy cement units were unaffected, highlighting the importance of aquaponics as an adaptive strategy in the face of climate change. After the storms, local residents—whose crops were also damaged by the floods—came to the group’s farm every day to buy vegetables. The group has since retained this local market and have built a reputation for quality produce.
The Thabelo group’s most notable success over the past year is a 50% increase in income compared to the previous year as a result of business planning to guide their investments in new inputs and expansion. The group has also been able to create jobs for the community for the first time, hiring temporary workers on a regular basis for physically demanding tasks in their traditional agriculture activities.
As Wilson attests, “INMED has given us our hope and confidence back, and we now see ourselves becoming commercial farmers, and for that we will always be grateful.”