THE saying is indeed true that behind every successful man is a strong woman and this augers well for 38-year old Sumindra Devi of Navakasobu settlement in Seaqaqa, Vanua Levu.
The Department of Agriculture team caught up with this amazingly strong-witted woman while she was cleaning her recently harvested rice at her home in Navakasobu early this month.
After several awkward exchanges of welcome, Sumindra finally felt at ease and began her life story on how she became both a mother and a farmer to support her equally hardworking husband, Nirbhay Chand.
Sumindra is originally from Vunicuicui settlement in Labasa and was brought up in a farming family.
Along with her three other sisters, Sumindra worked hard every day on the farm to help her parents.
Through unfortunate circumstances, Sumindra had to leave school at Form Two level and take up farming on a permanent basis.
"At times it was quite tough but all the hardships that I faced during those younger days have made me more thick-skinned," she said with a smile.
"My sisters have moved on and are all working while I have chosen to keep on farming for a living."
Now with two sons to look after, Sumindra has succeeded against all odds to provide everything for her children.
"My family is my world and I would do anything to put them through the best schools and give them the best of everything," she said.
Sumindra's eldest son is studying at the Teachers College in Lautoka trying to fulfill his dream while her younger son has gone further than she did and is now in Form Six.
With 12 hectares of land for sugar cane farming, Sumindra and her husband are utilising the rest of their land for ginger farming, rice, rootcrops, fruits and other vegetables.
"My day starts at 4am ?" I wake up to prepare breakfast for the family and lunch packs for my son," she said.
"Then it is time to head off to the farm. From taking the animals out to graze to weeding and planting, my day is always busy."
Sumindra says there is no time to hang around the house or even take a nap.
Every minute counts for something productive and utilising her time well has become part and parcel of her farming life.
"My day ends at 9pm after the family is fed with the last meal of the day and my son has completed his studies," she said.
"My days are filled with activities from the farm to household chores and there is not a boring day in my calendar."
With the looming cane harvesting season, Sumindra says she will have to wake up an hour early because the harvesting season means more responsibilities.
Simply put, she will have to prepare food for about 10 labourers who will live with them.
"We look after our labourers well and we always welcome them into our home because without them, I don't know how we will be able to harvest 12 hectares of sugar-cane," she explained.
Sumindra says the family has always been reliant on fresh food from the farm and do not have to worry about their meals.
"We also keep a few goats, chickens and ducks to supplement our daily meals.
"Other than that, we love to eat fresh vegetables from our farm," she said.
Sumindra says she is grateful for the advisory services provided by agriculture officials during community visits.
She says there are many new and innovative ideas to learn about running a successful farm.
"We received assistance from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in Suva," she said.
"They helped us with our ginger farm with agro-inputs and materials for our drip irrigation system.
"I guess we are probably the only ones in Fiji that has a ginger farm using the drip irrigation system," her husband, Nirbhay said.
"We are still learning and I know that we will improve through more trials on our farm."
The couple had built their lives around their farm and believes this is the greatest source of income that anyone can find.
"There is so much potential but yet we find so much land lying idle," Sumindra said.
"If landowners took ownership of their god-given resources, Fiji would be a farming haven as more people will plant their own food and people would not have to go to bed hungry."
Sumindra also believes that women play a big role in supporting their husbands in every household.
"If we remain steadfast in our belief for successful families then we must play our roles well.
"We need to be there for our families whether it is through thick or thin," she said.
The hardworking farmer says she is prepared to take chances for the sake of her sons' future.
"I am farming for a purpose because I have set goals and want to reach those goals.
"I know that government also has a goal to reduce imports.
"I believe that I am playing a small part in trying to reduce imports by supplying my vegetables to the local market.
"Imagine if everyone around the country planted vegetables in their backyards ?" Fiji would indeed be the way the world should be."
Sumindra and Nirbhay continue to work hard on their farm and hope that more people will wake up and return to their land to take up farming.
"Farming has so much to offer and we hope that youths around the country who are still searching for employment opportunities will be able to realise that farming is also an option when it comes to career choices," she said.
"We need more farmers like we need more nurses, doctors and teachers.
"Without farmers, how can we eat fresh fruits and vegetables?"
Sumindra hopes to inspire other women around the country of the benefits of hardwork and sacrifice.
"Farming is no longer just a man's job ?" it also needs a woman's touch," she said poetically.
* Kuini Waqasavou is an information officer at the Ministry of Primary