Benito, 36, and his wife Sarita are raising two children in the village of San Jose in Belize’s southernmost Toledo district. A son of a cacao farmer, Benito got inspired to start his own cacao farm and started by planting 500 trees six years ago.
Having been exposed to cacao farming from an early age, Benito has taken a liking to it and says that he enjoys everything that goes into cultivating this crop. Cacao is a permanent crop, so once planted and productive, cacao trees continue producing an average of 80 pods a year for decades onward. Maintaining the trees healthy requires cleaning the underbrush about three times a year, and pruning annually to keep production levels high. The hardest part of cacao farming for Benito is fighting monilia – an infectious fungal disease that makes the pods turn black and spreads through their pores. To prevent infection, farmers harvest the infected pods and stow them away from the trees.
Besides cacao, the family grows rice, corn, beans and plantain for home use, and sells some of it locally. Benito is requesting this loan to do routinely cleaning of his farm and to bag 1,000 seeds for an expansion. Cacao is planted by first raising the seed in a bag filled with topsoil and then transplanting it into the ground. Cacao seedlings are ready for transplantation when they have four leaves, about six months after they are bagged. In the future, Benito hopes his kids can help him out in the growing farm.
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.