Victor and his wife Teresa are raising four adopted children in the village of Santa Elena, on a road that connects southern Belize to southeastern Guatemala. The kids, ages eight to twelve, are all currently in school, and help out around the farm on free time. Teresa takes care of the family, helps out at the farm and makes local Maya crafts including woven baskets from the jippi jappa palm as well as hand bracelets.
New to cacao farming, Victor was encouraged to enter in the trade by his father, who is a member in the local cooperative. “I wanted to see what I can doo with it too,” he told Maya Mountain Cacao. Last year, Victor used savings from five years of gardening and landscaping work in the resort town of Placencia to purchase a cacao farm of three acres and around 850 trees. Seeing the benefit of cacao farming already, he is planning to expand the farm by transplanting 250 seedlings raised in bags in an on-farm nursery. “Cacao is money in the bank. When you’re harvesting, you feel happy you’re not wasting time with what you’re doing,” he said.
The tricky parts of cacao farming for Victor and many of his peers are the woodpeckers and the squirrels. Cacao pods are defenseless against the assailants, who work their way through the thick pod to pick at the seeds one at a time. Farmers can save a “broken into” pod if they find it within a short period of its opening. However, with frequent rains, if any water reaches the seeds housed inside, they germinate and the crop can be deemed useless. “You could spend the whole day on the farm, come back another day at daybreak and they’d already gotten to your ripe pods,” says Victor, who is looking into buying a pellet gun, among other investments for his farm.
If all goes well in the cacao growing business, Victor is hoping to open his home and organic farm for tourists. Besides cacao, he grows corn, beans and ginger, and he plans to start planting coffee. Also, alongside his work on the farm, Victor is the Vice-Alcalde (mayor) for his village and works in the nearby Rio Blanco National Park. This loan will help Victor with his first expansion. Before planting, he will first need to prepare the land by chopping the underbrush and lining. Lining is the process of planning and marking the spots where seedlings will be planted to ensure a linear structure and sufficient spacing. The task at hand will require hiring three men to help Victor on the farm for six days.
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.