Pedro and his wife Juana live in the village of Silver Creek in Belize’s southernmost district of Toledo. The couple has raised six children, aged eight to 35, two of who are still in school. Pedro says he hopes his children make the right choices without having to steer them. “I told them, 'Put your mind to work because farming is hard,'” he told Maya Mountain Cacao in his second language after Q'eqchi'.
A cacao farmer for six years, Pedro currently manages three acres with about 1,000 cacao trees. Pedro likes cacao because it is a permanent crop that does not require replanting every year. “I like it and my wife likes it too,” says Pedro, adding that she’s been great help at harvest, especially after their oldest boys left to join the Belize Defense Force. His favorite part of cacao is seeing the trees clean. “I don’t like to have the suckers. I like to dress it up. Once it’s clean it bears plenty better,” says Pedro. Cacao farmers refer to suckers as trees that “suck” the fertile topsoil without bearing fruit. Cacao pods are fruits that grow directly on the trunk and house about 35 seeds, which can then go through various stages of processing to make chocolate.
The family is requesting this loan to hire two men to help clean the three acres, a job that could take two weeks with the three of them working daily. Cleaning means cutting the underbrush that surrounds cacao trees and is especially instrumental in preparing land for planting new cacao seedlings. After a portion of Pedro’s farm burnt down a year ago, he’s decided to give it another try and is ready to transplant seedlings raised in a nursery on his farm. Seedlings are small cacao trees raised in a bag, typically for six months prior to transplanting into the ground. Cacao is ready for the ground when it has four or more leaves.
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.