We got up at 3.30 am to go to the, now harvested, sugar-cane field owned by my husband Omar’s family! The men of the family were all up at 4.Am every morning to go and cut and sort the cane which was then taken by Tractor and trailer to the factory! It reminded me of my childhood! We used to own a corn-processing factory in Graiguenemanagh, Ireland, and as children, we knew all the farmers by name. I loved sitting on top of the freshly harvested corn as we drove to the factory! It wouldn’t be allowed nowadays of course as it is a health and safety risk but we enjoyed it. We just had to make sure none of the hundreds of earwigs got anywhere near our ears!!!
The brothers and Omar got up early as it is hot here now and early morning work is a necessity. Women who had no husbands, and who needed food for their animals, came and helped; stripping the sugar-cane of all its green leaves after the men had chopped it down. Then they could bring it home on a donkey and cart. Often one of the brothers would bring the donkey cart piled high with sugar-cane leaves to the women’s homes if they had no way of taking it themselves. For many people here it is the main animal fodder and the only way they can afford to feed their animals. But this is only six months out of every twelve! For people who have struggled with poverty all their lives they will take either of two routes. They will either become extremely greedy and selfish and try to make money in any way they can or they will share everything they have, no matter how little, because they understand the struggle to make ends meet.
One man and his son, came to ‘help’ by taking the green leaves back for their own animals. But this man made derogatory statements about one of the brother’s wives! He was put in his place by allowing the poorer women to have the best leaves. But it turns out that this man has lots of his own land but didn’t want to share its leftover leaves and he poached the workers to come and work for him! He also owns a shop which does very well. But he was quite happy to take advantage of Omar’s family who give everything they have when they can. Money can be a powerful teacher!
We walked down to the field and watched as the sun came up. It was beautiful and peaceful. We had spent every penny on getting the harvest in fast so now we were down to basics, £10 for two weeks, but, as usual, when you give you also receive. We found, on our way back, lots of berseem seeds which had fallen from a torn bag so we collected it all and brought it home. It was good quality seed! There was enough to grow and feed the sheep and chickens for months! We also found some ears of wheat, that came home too, so I could grow it and learn how to grind it the really old-fashioned way, with stones! They can still be gotten here!
It was well worth getting up early but next time we will take the donkey and cart…its not often the locals see a foreign woman on a donkey! It will give them something to talk about…