Placido and Florentina live in the Mayan village of Pueblo Viejo, which lies next to an under way highway that will connect western Belize with eastern Guatemala. They raised seven children, aged between 17 and 32, all of who have jobs and live outside of the village communities. Two of the youngest are currently studying in the University of Belize, and all others have already completed schooling.
“I did hard work to send every single one to school,” says Placido. The couple works the farm together - Florentina helps with tasks like setting up nurseries, filling the bags with seeds and harvesting, as do the kids when they’re around. Cleaning, however, is something Placido either has to do himself or hire outside help. Cacao is a good crop, he assures, because it’s permanent: “rain or shine, it’s there,” he says. A cacao farmer of five years and counting, Placido got into the business by recommendation: “I always listen to good advice,” he told Maya Mountain Cacao. He started by buying bags and cacao fruit for seeds that he himself planted into bags instead of starting from pre-raised seedlings. “Most people told me I can’t do it, because that’s not how it’s done,” he said, confessing that he himself was relieved and very happy once his cacao started bearing fruit.
For Placido, the best part of farming is his routinely check on the farm, when he visits the nursery and trees to check on progress. The hardest is cleaning the bush, he says, adding that it’s especially tricky when you have freshly planted cacao, which you can accidentally chop together with the surrounding underbrush. Besides farming, Placido has a side cattle business and runs a little grocery store in Pueblo Viejo. In the future, if health allows, he hopes to expand what he already started – the cacao farm, cattle, improve his shop and continue working on his house to better accommodate the regularly visiting kids. The family hopes they’ve set a good example for their children, who can each accomplish more than their parents because of the added benefit of education. “I can do little. They’re going to school and getting valuable experience, so they can do more,” he says.
Florentina and Placido are requesting this loan to hire help to clean around 500 newly planted trees over two acres of tropical lowlands. Cleaning means clearing the underbrush to open access to cacao trees, which grow literally in the middle of the jungle. Farmers typically clean three to four times a year to keep their trees accessible. The job at hand will require hiring four people to clear the underbrush for 2 weeks.
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.