When I met Marita, she was very busy weeding her plot. There had been heavy rains the week before, and that makes the weeds grow fast. If you don’t act quickly, the ground gets too dry and hard to be able to weed by hand.
It was an incredibly hot and sunny day. Working with sugar provides no shelter, unlike the heavy canopy of the cocoa trees. But-- Marita was happy to talk. At the time of my visit in 2014, she was 50 years old (so we had that in common!).
She joined Kasinthula in 1998 in the first phase of the project. The 7 acres of land she contributed was her parents'. There, she first grew rice as part of a (failed) government rice scheme.
She has another plot that is nearly five acres where she grows cotton and sorghum. Her husband runs a beer store. Together, they have six children, five boys and one girl -- in 2014 the eldest was 27 and the youngest was 13.
Marita is proud to be a part of Kasinthula as she has been able to feed her family, send her children to school and buy them clothes. She has also been able to build a good home with iron sheets for the roof. Sugar farming has improved her family’s life.
It takes 10 metric tons of sugarcane to make one metric ton of sugar, but if the farmers cultivate their sugarcane carefully, they can increase the sugar content and their income.
Kasinthula has developed a new business model so that all farmers can understand the costs of inputs, labor, and irrigation of their plots. Marita said it means that she will work extra hard and won’t let the grass grow. She knows that her hard work will increase the amount of sugarcane she will grow and how much she will earn.