After several hours of driving along the south coast of Fiji’s main island Viti Levu, we veer off the main road and onto a rocky and muddy path. As we make our way toward Mrs Khan’s farm, we receive a call from her. She tells us, “ask anyone around, ask for Mrs Khan’s farm and they will know.”
I had heard about Mrs Khan before meeting her in person – people described her as a tenacious advocate for farming with a vibrant personality. The moment I met Mrs Khan and started speaking to her I understood exactly what made her unique.
“I just started with some sugarcane… and then developed up and up.”
Mrs. Khan shares her thoughts on farming
She’s not your “typical” farmer. First of all, she’s a woman managing a farming business that supports her sugarcane and various livestock. She’s not dressed in traditional “farming” attire but is wearing a dress and a bright red top that makes me think she’s the kind of lady that knows what makes her feel confident.
A Women Can Do It – And Do It Better
Mrs Khan manages the entire farm and her husband and two children work alongside her to support the thriving and entrepreneurial endeavour.
As Mrs Khan looks out into the fields of seemingly endless sugarcane plants, she says with sincerity, “The industry knows that when a woman says they can do it, and do it – then it’s a success story.”
Implementation for solar power energy, supported by the European Union
As a recipient of the support of the Micro Project Programme (MPP), she was able to install solar power to power the house she built for seasonal cane cutters. She shows us her solar power installation and the lights inside the house. In addition, Mrs Khan learned new skills through the Training Support to the Fijian Sugarcane Industry Project.
Mrs. Khan’s property (including the hill in front used for cattle to graze)
I find myself also staring at the open space of farmland. I ask her, “what’s next?”
“Oh! I don’t know!” she laughed and said. “I love the challenges! If a man can do, I can do it too… And better!”
Mrs Khan continues and says, “I can look at the good side and the bad side, what is the possible way or not possible way – if it’s not going to work, I ask myself: how am I going to make it work?”
Advocate for Farmers
Mrs Khan is also recognized as a Leader Farmer. This means that she takes on the role of supporting and mentoring other farmers. She embodies a lead by example attitude in her approach to speaking with the community. She says, “I have experienced myself and then I say it.”
Mrs Shahin Khan with SPC MPP Project Manager, Martin Chong
We start to speak about the importance of the agriculture industry and she says, “Beef, sugarcane, and flour. The food from the farmers will always supply the people. We have to keep the sugar and farming industry – the agriculture must go on.”
She has the mind of a businesswoman with the heart of a farmer. She connects with the community and other farmers while understanding how to implement better farming practices.
A Beautiful Farm
As we walk into Mrs Khan’s home, we see that she has prepared for our lunch. An aromatic yellow curry sits comes out to the table next to a large plate of rice. She brings out a plate of cooked beef with onions.
Mrs. Khan’s home
She tells proudly that, “the beef you will eat is the best beef of all!” Mrs Khan has prepared for us her own cattle that even won an award in 2014.
Lunch prepared by Mrs. Khan
From her home, we have a different view of her farm. In the foreground, we see chicken, horses, cats, and a single (house pet) goat. Again we find ourselves staring at the view in front of us than looking at each other. She quickly glances over at me, laughs, and says, “it is paradise for me!”
She closes her thoughts on farming and expresses her gratefulness to the European Union and Pacific Community (SPC) for their support.
Author: Lauren Chan, EU Blogger