Rafael, 45, is a father of 12 children, with the youngest aged 2 and oldest aged 25. Like about a third of farmers in the Maya Mountain Cacao network, Rafael lives in the village of San Jose, in the district of Toledo, where he’s been farming 4 acres of cacao for twenty years.
Cacao is the sole source of income for Rafael's family, and his favorite crop because it has a market. “The problem is you cannot do a lot, because poor farmers don’t have finance to invest [in their farms]. That’s why we’re looking for loans,” he told Maya Mountain Cacao. Rafael's first loan will go towards cleaning, which for cacao farmers means removing the underbrush in order to plant new seedlings, prepare for pruning or harvesting by opening pathways and access to the trees.
Rafael recently expanded the scope of his cacao farm by transplanting – moving seedlings from bags into the ground – 300 trees. Planting new seedlings is a long-term investment, as cacao trees take 3-5 years to start producing pods.
Investment in the farm facilitated by loans translates to investment in his children, 5 of whom are currently enrolled in school. Besides taking the kids away from helping around the farm, school in Belize has annual tuition costs that are prohibitive for many Maya farmers in Toledo. Rafel's older kids followed his example by taking up cacao farming themselves.
About Maya Mountain Cacao
Maya Mountain Cacao (MMC) is a for-profit social enterprise that sources premium cacao beans from smallholder farmers in Belize. Founded in 2010, it generates income for marginalized farmers while promoting sustainable agricultural practices in the southern part of the country.
These cacao farmers use Kiva credit to invest in farm maintenance, improvement and expansion. For example, they might hire workers to help with the harvest or buy inputs such as better tools and seedlings.