Roberto, 24, has been a cacao farmer his entire adult life. Together with his wife Darlina, he is bringing up two children aged three and four. Darlina has been indispensible to running their 1.5 acre cacao farm, and has been helping with activities like cleaning and harvesting. Besides help with maintaining the farm and taking care of the family, she also does local Maya crafts like woven goods from jippi jappa palm.
Cacao, the only cash crop in many of the local Mayan communities throughout Belize’s southernmost district of Toledo, is also the sole source of income for the family at the moment. For Roberto, harvesting is his favorite part of cacao farming because it is also the most rewarding, as compensation is immediate. Farmers have the option to either sell their cacao fresh or fermented and dried, providing leeway to develop expertise in processing or to instead focus more on the farming itself. Fresh cacao are the seeds of cacao fruit covered with a sweet pulp that begins fermenting shortly after the fruit is cracked open. The most challenging thing about cacao for this young farmer has been trying to keep the monilia fungal disease from spreading in his farm.
In the future, Roberto wants to expand the family farm, build a comfortable home and save money to invest in the education of the children. An entrepreneur in spirit, Roberto is looking at business opportunities to create alternative sources of income for the family as well. The couple is requesting this loan to expand their cacao farm by 1,000 new trees, more than doubling the current number. To prepare for the expansion, they will hire five men for seven days to clean the area to be planted, and bag cacao seeds. The first step in planting new cacao is raising a seedling in a bag filled with topsoil to make it ready for transplantation into the ground. Once a seedling has four or more leaves, it is ready for planting, and can be expected to become productive in three to five years after.
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.