Santiago is the son of Cifriano, who is also applying for a loan through Kiva. He lives with his wife Rebecca and five children in the village of San Jose. Cacao farming is a tradition that runs in the family, and Santiago has chosen to follow it with enthusiasm.
Cacao is great because it helps farmers with cash, says Santiago. There is little liquidity in the Mayan villages, where cacao is the only source of income for many a farmer. Santiago’s favorite time in the cacao growing cycle is harvest, because it brings in money and facilitates investment in home improvement among other things. In the near future he hopes to build a home that better accommodates his growing family.
Two of Santiago and Rebecca’s children are currently of school age. The family hopes to put the kids through school so they can become professionals in their chosen field and get jobs in town. In Belize, schooling is not required past primary (6-14) education, and schools charge tuition for children enrolled in any level of education.
The family is requesting this loan in order to do maintenance on the farm and expand by transplanting new seedlings. Maintenance includes cleaning and pruning the fields. Cleaning means cutting the underbrush to clear access to trees for harvest and pruning or preparing land for transplanting new trees. Cleaning is a routine activity for farmers living in the lush tropical lowlands and needs to be done three to four times per year. Pruning is the process of cutting the non-productive branches and is necessary to increase yields and prolong the lifetime of a cacao tree. Santiago plans to hire 15 people to help get the work done in one day.
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.