THE lean tender hands of a 63-year-old woman was just as frisky as the other labourers who were much younger than her as they harvested cane in a Macuata farm.
The wrinkles on her palms said it all.
Even the scorching heat of the Babasiga sun failed to deter her from joining the crew harvesting cane.
Rai Mati is one of six women from the Coqeloa area who have stepped in to help their husbands and relatives cut the cane because of a shortage of labourers.
The women, aged between 40 to 60, have been working on the farm for the past three months. And they make time every day after completing their house chores to help their husbands on the farms.
They opted to join and help the men because of the labourer shortage, which they had faced over the past four years.
"We have been helping each other in our respective farms because labourers are not willing to cut cane," Ms Mati said.
"For the past four years, we have been doing this activity and once we are done, we then concentrate on our house chores.
"It's really difficult for us since we are women but we are left with no choice but to help our husbands out."
As soon as their children leave for school, Ms Mati said the women attend to their house work, cook lunch and leave for the farm.
"Sometimes we take the morning breakfast to our husbands and their lunch too. So while there at the farm, we cut the cane and it has been like that every day."
Ms Mati said the cane farmers in the area also had problems in securing cane labourers.
"In this cane-belt area, we have decided to help one another in terms of cutting cane. For instance, we harvest one farm first this week and move on to the other the following week.
"It's really hard but we are managing as days go by. We really can't do much because we need the money to put food on the table."
Her colleague, Sanjeshni Lata, smiled when she described her time spent at the cane farm.
"Women in this area don't have any choice but to come out to the farm and cut cane because the labourers no longer want to come out. It is hard job for them and for us too but what else can we do when this is our income."
Provincial administrator Macuata Josefa Rokonai last week said it was only proper for farmers to seek assistance from their neighbours to cut their cane because they really could not force people to cut cane.