Bartholomew, also known as Bartolo for short, is from the village of Big Falls, on the Southern highway of Belize. As a program manager at a local conservation NGO in the district, he is also involved in promoting cacao production in agroforestry systems. According to Bartholomew, he got involved in cacao because it contributes to environmental health and social well-being of the farmers, and because he wants to be a role model for cacao farmers who are the NGOs' target audience.
The cacao farm is doing well for Bartolo because production, only in its second year, is picking up quickly to his great excitement. Aside from cacao, he also plants timber to practice the principles of agroforestry promoted in his work. He also plants plantain and pineapple for home use.
Bartolo's favorite part of cacao farming is harvesting because unlike other stages of working with cacao, it’s not particularly hard. Harvesting involves picking the ripe pods on the trees and cracking them to extract the seeds inside. A cacao pod typically houses 35 seeds surrounded by a sweet juicy pulp that can be enjoyed as a fruit, but starts fermenting shortly after it is opened. Farmers have the option of either processing their own cacao or selling it wet for centralized fermentation and drying. The challenging part for Bartolo is field maintenance due to his busy work schedule. Oftentimes Bartolo checks on his farm early in the morning before heading out to work.
Bartolo is requesting this loan to hire people from his village to clean his cacao farm so that he can focus fully on his job while also maintaining his agricultural activities. Cleaning is the process of removing the underbrush from the cacao farm as well as cleaning the surroundings to facilitate airflow in the field and make trees accessible for pruning or harvest.
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.