Akisi Vinaka, a canefarmer, canecutter, sardar and traditional leader in Wainikoro has challenged landowners to make use of their land. Picture: SERAFINA SILAITOGA
AKISI Vinaka is a popular name in the cane belt areas of Wainikoro and Lagalaga in Macuata.
She is 59 years of age but is swift and frisky when it comes to harvesting cane. This certainly speaks of her determination to make a difference in the iTaukei farming community.
Mrs Vinaka has been a canefarmer for the past 17 years and is a sardar (administrator) for seven cane farming gangs in the area, a Justice of the Peace official and is the head of yavusa Kedekede in her village of Wainidrua.
She certainly had a lot to share when we met at her cane field and her name "Vinaka" meaning "good" or "all is well" was reflected in her demeanor.
Our search for her was not a difficult one because every farmer, who we enquired to regarding her whereabouts, told us of her exact location, which was in her cane farm.
"I love farming. It's my hobby and I have six children who are all in Viti Levu and they have told me to leave farming and join them, but this is where my heart is," Mrs Vinaka said.
"I have a lease of about 13 acres, I pay lease of $970 and I am leasing this land from my own yavusa. It's the best way to do it because cane farming is a business and we should treat it professionally."
During the interview, she kept dabbing her T-shirt and laughed as she noticed our silent observation.
"My T-shirt is damp because I swam across the river to come to my farm and cut cane," Mrs Vinaka explained.
"It was wet early this morning when I arrived but thank God for the sun as it is drying my T-shirt."
Swimming across the river has become part of her sardar duty even at night when farmers need to clarify the tickets or quotas with FSC officials.
"I swim at night because it is the shortest and fastest way to get to my gang members who need my help. That's actually my job, you know, to serve my members," Mrs Vinaka said.
"Then I have my traditional role so it's not easy, but I guess I manage well because I live alone and it's easier to work alone."
Like other farmers concerned about the high cost of cane farming, Mrs Vinaka feels costs on some products should be dropped.
"The lease cost should decrease because farmers are trying to make ends meet in this industry and it's not easy," she said.
"Our transport cost is high like $25 per tonne if we have to hire a lorry to take our cane to the mill.
"If we load the cane on a tractor from our farms to the main line, it will cost us $5 to $9 per tonne so it's not easy. (The main line is a spot where farmers need to off load their cane loaded on rails which will get picked up by FSC locomotive operators)."
Compared with 15 years ago, cane farming operations, she said was affordable.
"We could hire labourers and pay them about $4 to $5 a tonne and that was cheap because other costs were affordable," Mrs Vinaka said.
"Today, the cost of living has increased and we the canefarmers can feel a big difference.
"When we get our cane payment, very little or nothing is left after all our deductions are made so reducing the costs of transport, lease and fertiliser will help us very much."
Babasiga (pronounced bambasinga) is the dry land of Macuata in northern Fiji - our place in the sun in Fiji. Peceli is from Fiji from the village is Vatuadova and the beach is Nukutatava. Peceli Ratawa passed away on 27th December 2015 so this is Wendy's blog now. Wendy is an Australian and today live in Geelong, Australia.