SUNBIZ

From Adversity To Sweet Cane Success: Suman Takes Charge

Her sons 20-year-old Yogesh and 18-year-old Satish had yet to find their footing as adults according to Suman and she found herself with the added task of teaching them to lead, a position traditionally held by men.
19 Jan 2020 14:44
From Adversity To Sweet Cane Success: Suman Takes Charge
Suman Lata (centre) and her sons Yogesh and Satish Chand on their farm in Waiqele outside Labasa. Photo: Josefa Kotobalavu

When her husband died in 2003, 40-year-old Suman Lata was in her prime with four young children and very little assets to her name other than a 16-acre farm on the outskirts of Labasa town.

Still shocked from having lost her partner so early in life, Suman was also facing the possibility of losing the 16 acre sugar cane farm she had come to call home for 20 years.

“After my husband died, the farm came under my name and I was still very interested in farming,” she said.

Suman had gotten married barely out of her teens from another sugar cane farming family some 40 kilometres away.

She had been living, breathing and working in sugar all her life, and like many other women in the industry, her contribution was immense but unrecognised. Now was her time to take charge.

Experience

Suman had 20 years of experience planting and harvesting cane right next to her husband and was confident she could take on the challenge.

So while she grieved, she reminded herself that someone had to do the work.

It was ultimately Suman’s love for her husband that prevented her from letting the farm fail, so she rolled up her sleeves and got to work.

“I decided to do the work myself and I never thought about leaving. I told myself, it didn’t matter that I was alone, I will keep working on the farm,” she said.

It was not easy, now 56-year-old Suman admits.

Suman Lata at Waiqele outside Labasa. Photo: Josefa Kotobalavu

Suman Lata at Waiqele outside Labasa. Photo: Josefa Kotobalavu

Her sons 20-year-old Yogesh and 18-year-old Satish had yet to find their footing as adults according to Suman and she found herself with the added task of teaching them to lead, a position traditionally held by men.

“It was difficult but I continue to thank God,” she said.

“I teach my sons everything I know about farming.

“I tell them when is the right time to plant so things can grow and my daughters help with household chores.

“I wake up at 4am and pray, then I make the food and go to the farm.

“When I was younger I used to plough the farm myself.”

She said the Government eventually helped them by providing farming equipment and now they have more cane growing.

“I always harvest more than 200 tonnes. I know God is with us.

“My sons have stayed and together we keep working on this farm and we are happy,” she said.

“Some people say farming is not good but if you do the hard work you will get the money.”

Suman is also eager to lift others when she rises and is particularly fond of helping other women farmers.

“There is a female farmer here who asked me to help her with her cane farm.

“I’m willing to help other women who don’t know how to farm. I can show them what to do and even take them to my farm,” she said.

In 2017 Suman let her two sons take over most of the farm work although she says she misses driving the tractor and some of the work she has grown accustomed to over the past 16 years.

“I don’t think it’s hard for now, but I know that as I get older I should slow down a little.”

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