Home  |  Branches  |  Careers  |  FAQs  |  Feedback
Search
A Woman in a Man's World
Print this page   
20 October 2011



When one thinks of a sugar cane farmer, the image that immediately conjures to mind is not Unaisi Kalo that’s for sure.

The 47 year-old shopkeeper from Nasekula, Labasa is not your typical cane farmer – well, she’s a woman for starters and while she is not someone you would expect to go into this line of business, what immediately strikes you is her quiet determination and inability to consider failure as an option.
 
When cane leases started expiring in the Northern Division in the earlier part of 2000, Unaisi decided that she would try her hand at farming cane on the land returned to her mataqali in 2004. Along with her husband Eroni Tikolutu, 49, Unaisi worked hard on the 19 acre cane farm in Tuatua, Duavata, Labasa to raise harvest production.
 
“That first year, we managed to harvest 51 tonnes and in the second year, we increased harvest to 102 tonnes and in the third year that went up further to almost 300 tonnes then my husband hurt his back and couldn’t work on the farm anymore,” Unaisi said.
 
Eroni’s work on the farm during the day, complimented his regular job at a local service station in the evenings. His injury also prevented him from continuing in his regular paid employment.
 
“Because my husband was too sick to go to the farm, I got my friends and the sirdar (foreman) to help me out. I felt that although my husband couldn’t work on the farm, we needed to continue farming because it was our livelihood,” Unaisi said.

Unaisi’s relationship with FDB stems back to the start of her venture into cane farming when she needed a tractor for the farm.

 In 2005 with assistance from the Northern Development Programme and FDB, Unaisi and Eroni obtained financing to buy a tractor under the Bank’s Loan to Sugar Cane Farmers facility. They have since paid off that loan.
 
The Loans to Sugar Cane Farmers is open to all types of cane farming businesses provided the enterprise is owned locally – joint ventures must have 51% local shareholding. Loans are assessed on viability and at the sole discretion of FDB. The purpose of this loan facility is to provide financial assistance to all sugar cane farmers, within loan eligibility including land development, land purchase, construction of farm house, farm vehicles, machinery, equipment, implements, and working capital.
 
Over the last three years, however, cane harvest on her farm has declined because of contractual problems with the mechanical harvester and ability to find seed cane for new planting.
 
“The mechanical harvester we had contracted to harvest our cane was supposed to also transport the cane to the mill and because the company didn’t, I had to run around and look for labourers and anyone in cane farming will know, finding labour these days is really hard,” Unaisi said.
 
“While harvesting using a mechanical harvester is convenient it is limited also because it cannot cut cane planted close to drains and so to ensure that we get all cane harvested, we have to hire labour to do that also. This season, we expect our harvest to be less than 100 tonnes but I am hopeful that I will bring production up again.”
 
Realising that she had to off-set the reduced income from the farm, Unaisi applied for and was successful in obtaining another loan from FDB under its Small Business Scheme facility and a grant from the Northern Development Programme to start a canteen in her village.

The SBS is designed for any entrepreneur starting out or already has a business in operation. The purpose of this facility is help the applicant purchase or establish a business including the purchase or construction of buildings, equity investment, purchase of plant and equipment including motor vehicles, provision of working capital and the acquisition of shares. There is no maximum ceiling for this facility but can only be used by businesses with a turnover of up to $100,000.

In June this year, Unaisi opened the doors of her canteen where she sells confectionary, canned food, other basic essential items as well as frozen goods, the freezer for which she purchased with her recent loan. The weekly income that she derives from sales helps her family of four with their daily essentials. Adjacent to the shop is a secured area for the pool table, which derives an additional income as well.
 
“It’s only been a few months but I would like to expand my shop and improve the product range that I retail from here. I would like to also add fuel to the list of items that I retail,” she said.
 
Unaisi appears to be just the sort to make whatever she puts her mind to, happen.

 

News Archive
Jul
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Jan
Feb
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Dec
Jan