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Green business spotlight: Lepati Mpho Ramathe

Welcome to our interview series where we speak with purpose-driven business owners and ecopreneurs from around the globe. Every few weeks, we’ll dive into their journeys, learn about their wins and challenges, and the resources they couldn’t do without.

Prepare to be inspired and learn something new!

Today’s guest is Lepati Mpho Ramathe from Sustainable Abundance Permaculture.

Please tell us a little bit about who you are, your background, and what you did before starting your own business.

I’m an idealist, with a love of the natural world, and have since i was a child. I have BA in philosophy and media studies, which I still try to use to communicate ideas. And used to be a parkour coach before learning about permaculture.

What inspired you to create a purpose-driven company and how did you come up with the business idea?

Completing my permaculture design course, and seeing how it could be applied to help the impoverished people of South Africa, people like my extended family.

In your experience, what are the main challenges of starting and running a green business?

Creating awareness and/or informing the general public. I.e. creating a market from scratch. More often than not there is no backing for a start-up that doesn’t fit into an established paradigm, meaning there is little marketing and information sharing in communities.

What is your business mission & purpose and why?

To implement and spread sustainable design (permaculture) to reform the destructive agricultural, energy production, waste management and even political systems of South Africa. There is a lack of knowledge and understanding in most political leadership resulting in flawed and ineffective solutions.

How does your work address societal and/or environmental issues?

By hosting practical training courses and workshops as well as designing and implementing sustainable systems for homes and farms. This creates informed individuals and visible examples of sustainable design in action.

What are the most common mistakes you see green businesses make?

A lack of coordinated networking with other green businesses across the industry. This stand alone approach means we cannot leverage our various disciplines and industries to promote greater change and growth.

What makes your business unique?

It is focused on help farmers transition from industrial and traditional agriculture to sustainable methodologies. Everything starts with eating, healthy, toxin free, food can form the base of a healthy society.

Is there anything that you do outside of your business that is driven by similar (sustainability) objectives?

I help out on my fathers farms making compost and helping him find funding to build more sustainable systems. Currently we are composting using chickens for a unique organic product.

What do you like the most about the work you do? 

Designing and building permaculture systems, as well as training others in permaculture and sustainable gardening/farming practices. Not only is the work satisfying, but every little bit of positive progress is a win for our world.

What’s your day-to-day like?

After feeding chickens and geese, my day involves the promotion on social media, admin and client interaction. Calls with land owners and community leaders attempting to arrange funding to implement sustainable farming models.

How do you grow and scale your business, and what are the main growth constraints and opportunities?  

Originally we grew through hosting workshops/courses and creating a network of students/trainees through which design and installation projects were obtained. Since COVID this is no longer viable and we have had to restructure and focus on working on rural development, while working towards a network of training farms.

What green businesses/sectors do you see growing the fastest right now and/or will become mainstream within the next 10 years?

Regenerative agriculture, Agroforestry and sustainable energy systems. These three fields are the essential for curtailing the climate crisis, securing the food security, providing employment and/or social development for tje most vulnerable communities in the world.

In your opinion, what are the top skills necessary to be a successful eco-entrepreneur?

Outside of a knowing your field and expertise in what you are doing, you need adaptability, networking capability and communication skills.

Any “lessons learned” or advice you can share with aspiring or current green business owners?

Don’t expect it to be easy, be flexible and learn about past and upcoming techniques and technologies. The game is always changed, especially with politics as a factor, be prepared to fight for your beliefs and your work.

What inspires you every day to wake up and keep going?

Every time I see an old man or woman tilling a field by hand and knowing there’s a better way. The scarcity and waste created by a poorly designed food system, drives me to push for a world beyond these unnecessary failings of our society

Mpho is a versatile professional with a BA in Philosophy and Media Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand. Alongside academic achievements, Mpho holds an Impro Certificate in Sound Design and Video Editing. A dedicated advocate for sustainable practices, Mpho is certified in Permaculture Design and Training from Serenity Permaculture, bringing over a decade of expertise in permaculture design and implementation to the field.

Lepati Mpho Ramathe, Sustainable Abundance Permaculture

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