Lucio, his wife Leticia, and their eight-year-old daughter live in the village of San Jose. The family is relatively new to cacao, and currently manages six acres with around 600 productive and 300 newly planted cacao trees. Lucio says cacao farming was inspired by Leticia, who favored cacao because it is perennial as opposed to the most typical Belizean crop package of beans and corn.
The family is excited about cacao, especially because their trees started producing with just under three years from transplantation. It usually takes five years for ungrafted trees to produce cacao pods. So-called side-grafting is the process of implanting a shoot from a mature tree into a younger one, and results in more productive trees that also take less time to start yielding pods. Lucio says his favorite part of cacao farming is picking out the perfect ripe pods for harvesting. “It is my favorite job, I’m not out to work somewhere in some company, I work on my farm,” says Lucio, however adding that sometimes it feels like too much work.
Lucio and Leticia are requesting this loan to clean and prune productive cacao trees and plant banana in between newly transplanted seedlings to provide necessary shade. Cleaning is the process of clearing underbrush to clear access to trees, and is a process that needs to be repeated three to four times annually in cacao farms in the lush tropical lowlands of Belize. Pruning means cutting excess branches on trees to keep them from growing too tall and unwieldy and to increase yields in the coming season. Shade is a requisite ingredient in cacao farming, what makes this practice especially environmentally friendly since cutting forest is not only unnecessary but also detrimental to growing cacao.
Leticia and Lucio are focused on their daughter’s education, and hope that she will also be of help around the farm. Lucio says he plans to work hard in the coming years to bring up production so the family could invest in building a nice house.
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.