In Reunion, women farmers take power

There have always been women in cultivation, but women in the shadows, like me, Nadia remembers collecting bouquets of flowers on Mother’s Day on her daughter’s farm in Sainte-Anne, east of Reunion. My husband is a farmer, I’ve always helped him, but I prefer to keep my job as an AESH (Accompaniment of Students with Disabilities, Editor’s Note) because it provides a steady income. »

She is 48 years old, and she is already a grandmother several times. Three of my four children are farmers. I never thought my daughter would get into this. After we saw the difficulty of this job, we wished her something else … But she was always with us in this field, and this made her want it “, Nadia says, he raised her grandchildren by her side.

sale and export

If Nadia never wanted to be advertised as a helpful wife, her daughter Ann-Liz Naz did so six years ago, when she met her husband. At 25, Ann-Liz has the confidence and determination of those who inspire her. With straight black hair, hoop earrings, jeans and a lace shirt with plastic boots, the farmer, mother of two, wants to maintain her ranch femininity.

About ten hectares of flowers, sugarcane, orchards and horticulture, a playground where Anne Lise grows, sells and exports on all fronts. Upon arriving at the co-op, I was told: ‘You there, are you working the ground with your nails?’ “I’m flirtatious, but I’m on my farm every day! Of course, it takes character, because some men think you can’t do the same thing as them. But here, women farmers are strong and more determined,” Ann Lise, whose husband nicknames her “Ti Bœuf,” is a lot ahead. In a few months, she will change her status to become COO, just like him. Her natural progression: “We’ll only be one, that’s all”, She is kidding.

Under the spouses Vanessa Monin, in San André, she was responsible for the farm of 10,500 chickens, and her husband is a helpful husband. At 38, she also hasn’t escaped criticism: “At first, I had the impression that my project wasn’t taken seriously, especially the architects. When you see me, you suspect I’m a farmer, I’m skinny, small…while people think you have to be big and strong to do the job! Just because you’re a woman! Not that you can’t do it. It’s physical, but if you have the will, love the land and animals, you can do it!” The educator guarantees.

Vanessa Munyen has struggled to get people to take her 10,500 chicken farm seriously.

• Bastian Duden / Hans Lucas for life

Exploiters with conviction

“Young women have been more entrepreneurial over the past 10 years, Adeline Jard, installation and dispatch director at the Agricultural Reunion Chamber, confirms. For supported combinations, we notice a significant increase. There were 18% of women in 2017, and 25% in 2020. The first motivation is to be your own boss, but also to feed the population healthily; It’s a form of liberation,” emphasizes Adeline Gard.

“Even on the administrative side, there are more and more women, technicians and managers. Whereas before they were confined to the position of secretary. For 15 years I have seen this development at different levels: production, but also in the world of trade unions and even in the representative bodies of the agricultural world. On For example, in my team, out of 14 agents, there are 11 women! ” The frame of the planting room rejoices.

Thus, in Reunion, the largest dairy cooperative is headed by a woman, the powerful FDSEA union has a women farmers committee, and Prima Bache is a member. The farmer started cultivating sugar cane 20 years ago. Then the young Mauritian, a literature student, discovered the profession of love by joining her husband on his farm. When he dies, she puts all her energy into acclimatization.

“I found myself with 20 hectares of sugar cane on my head and bills and my two-year-old son to manage. I became a laborer over 15 years ago; it was very difficult, especially in a male environment. We said there were posters: ‘She has to give up the stick, it’s a thing Good for the man…”Fortunately, there is also a lot of solidarity”, Prima, who has finally taken another direction, explains out of conviction rather than out of frustration.

In 2017, it turned 5 hectares of land into an organic orchard: bananas, fruits, papayas and other local products. Prima had always thought about his practice, then trained to process and recover pitayas, dragon fruits, that had fallen to the ground, to make jam. Banqueux: Her creativity is so seductive that she won two gold medals at the last public agricultural competition in Paris.

With pitayas, Prema Patché cooks jam, which has won many awards. (top right).

• Bastian Duden / Hans Lucas for life

Renewed interest in the earth

Pascaline Malbrook came late into farming. As a radiology clinician for years, she became a family assistant on her father-in-law’s farm in 2019 before taking the position after his death. In La Plaine-des-Palmistes guava trees are grown, which give this small, red-fleshed fruit so loved by the people of Réunion.

“I have always loved being in the middle of nature and not dependent on anyone. I love to eat what I produce, and it is important to share that with the people of Reunion Island,” argue. Graduated in 2021 from a professional agricultural certificate, “Where there was a majority of women”, Now you want to develop agrotourism, “Install the huts, offer things from the garden, and why not try the guava dishes.”

Pascaline Malbrook has an agrotourism project on her guava farm.

• Bastian Duden / Hans Lucas for life

For her part, Gilbert, 75, is thrilled with her daughter’s success, but she notes “The woman should have taken her place earlier. Previously, it was the house, the cleaning, the ironing, the cooking… it’s over now” ! And the sector is so attractive that 20-year-old BTS member Elsa Armand in Paris has revised her plans.

With my dad, we relaunched a tea plantation six months ago in the heart of the island. I know now that’s what I want to do. First in my spare time, next to my desk and then, who knows, maybe after that I can live from that! She encouraged the student who was excited to return to Reunion in September to participate with others in the development of agriculture on her island.

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