Simeon, his wife Isabella and five children aged eight and up live in the village of San Jose. Four of the children are still in school, and help out around the farm when not busy with homework.
Simeon was introduced to cacao farming by the local co-operative around seven years ago, and has been growing his farm and yields ever since. Cacao is good, but takes too long to start producing, says Simeon. Cacao trees are a long-term investment for farmers, as they typically start producing between three to five years of transplanting them into the ground. For Simeon, the most common challenges are rodents like quash – also known as coatimundi – and squirrels, as well as the woodpecker, who do everything to get to ripe pods before the farmers themselves.
Besides cacao, the family grows orange and the traditional Mayan package of corn, beans and rice. They hope to provide the children with an education, to give them options. “Farming is very hard, but if you have an education, you could get easier jobs, working in buildings,” Simeon told Maya Mountain Cacao, adding that a good education is never wasted on anyone.
The family is requesting the loan to hire 16 people for one workday to help with cleaning two acres of cacao. Cleaning is a strenuous and recurring activity for farmers and involves using a machete to cut underbrush and clear access to the trees for pruning or harvest. The tropical lowlands in Belize are especially fertile and require cleaning three to four times a year to keep cacao trees accessible.
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.