Santiago and Epiphania manage a cacao farm with around 700 trees in the village of Pueblo Viejo. The village is located outside the electric grid, next to an under way highway that will connect western Belize with eastern Guatemala. The couple has raised 11 children, the youngest of who is 15 and oldest 33.
The farm is truly a family business, as everybody is expected to help out when they can. Epiphania has been instrumental in growing and harvesting cacao. “We’re trying to have a better product. Especially now that we can sell it wet, we just need to take care of the trees,” says Santiago. The possibility of selling wet cacao at the farm gate has passed the burden of fermenting and drying from the farmers onto the buyers.
A cacao farmer of seven years, Santiago started growing cacao inspired by the arrival of a new market in Toledo. Equipped with some seeds and bags for planting them from the local co-op, Santiago planted his cacao in the foothills of the Maya Mountains and has been successfully tending to them ever since. His favorite thing about cacao is that once it’s producing, it is a secure and stable source of income. “Saturday I harvest, Sunday I have the money. It’s not like planting beans and corn, which takes six to eight months to harvest,” says Santiago. For Santiago, the most challenging part of cacao is fermentation, because the beginning of cacao harvest coincides with the end of the rainy season.
The family is requesting this loan to hire help with cleaning their 700 cacao trees as well as bagging 200 new seeds for a planned farm expansion. Once bagged, the seeds take about six months to grow to seedlings that can be transplanted into the ground as soon as it has at least four healthy leaves. The cleaning and bagging will require and create 64 hours of labor in the community.
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.