Justo Patrocinio lives in the village of Santa Elena, on a road that leads to the Guatemalan border. Justo and his wife Irma have 8 children, the youngest of whom is four and the oldest 22. The older boys helped plant and take care of the cacao farm, and are now searching for jobs in town, while the younger are interested in and counted on for help around the farm.
Justo likes farming cacao because it both brings in money and can be used to make your own chocolate drink. The drink of the Gods, as it was regarded by the ancient Mayas and limited to the elites, is very commonplace in the Maya communities today. You can make it by grinding the cacao beans (usually by hand) and molding cacao balls that can be dissolved in hot water for a rich and nutritious beverage.
Justo is requesting this loan to hire five people for a week to help him clean four acres of cacao. Cleaning underbrush is a routine activity for cacao farmers in the tropical lowlands. Cacao grows in agroforestry-type ecosystems with varying levels of vegetation and on fertile jungle soil that is especially productive and non-selective about what it grows, so farmers have to be.
Like few farmers in his village, Justo has diversified his crops and besides the typical combination of cacao, corn and beans, he grows fruit trees like starfruit and soursop, coffee and cardamom. “It’s hard when you start things because there’s no money at that point. I have to wait for harvest time,” he explains the difficulty in investing to diversify his farm. In the future, Justo wants to invest in more trees and do some reconstruction on the house. If he works hard this year, he says he might afford to buy a solar panel to illuminate the house before his daughter starts high school.
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.