Silvano, age 60, lives with his wife Delfina in Blue Creek village. One of Toledo’s most beautiful spots, Blue Creek is surrounded by mountains and rests atop of an underground water cave of over 5 miles. The few tourists that pass by Toledo most often pay a visit to Blue Creek to swim down the cave and see its numerous waterfalls.
Silvano and Delfina have brought up six children, the youngest of whom is now 20. All of them have professional jobs in town whether it is in teaching, tourism or civil service. Delfina makes crafts such as bracelets and necklaces to sell to passerby tourists, and the family has opened their doors for homestays. Besides growing cacao, Silvano is also a medicinal healer of the Q’eqhci’ tradition. He cultivates over an acre of medicinal plants he uses in healing practices and opens for medicinal trail tours.
The family is requesting the loan in order to double the capacity of the 2 acre and 800-plant cacao farm. Silvano says he is ready to be able to enjoy his house and farm, whereas now he still has to move around considerably for his tourism-linked activities. “I enjoy everything about being a farmer, I like to work,” he told Maya Mountain Cacao, confessing that he’s also looking forward to the days he gets to just sit around the farm. The more challenging part of cacao farming for Silvano are the many critters after the plant – if not the rodents chewing on the roots, you have to worry about leaf-cutter ants and birds as well as squirrels that often get to the fruit before farmers do.
The loan will be used to set up an on-farm nursery and raise seedlings for the said expansion. Seedlings are cacao trees grown in bags for at least six months to get them ready for transplanting in the ground. Once planted, cacao trees take three to five years to start producing depending on the breed and whether the trees are grafted. Grafting is the process of inserting the tissue of one seedling into another and results in more productive trees that start yielding pods sooner than their non-grafted counterparts.
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.