Ponciano, age 60, lives with his wife Escolastica in the village of San Jose, Toledo’s cacao village extraordinaire. The couple has raised three children, two of who currently live in and are attending high school. The family has prioritized their children’s education. “We put them in high school because the times have changed, before we all had to farm,” Ponciano told Maya Mountain Cacao.
Ponciano started growing cacao at the time of new markets opening up for Belize-grown cacao some 25 years ago. The family manages two acres of cacao farm, with around 900 productive trees. For Ponciano, harvesting is the most rewarding part of cacao farming, as it means instant reimbursement for his work. The most challenging part of cacao farming, however, is cleaning and protecting the trees from animals. Cacao trees are especially vulnerable when they are young, at a time when enthusiastic rodents can overpower the tree by chewing on its soft roots.
Besides cacao, the family grows the traditional package of corn and beans. Juan also works as a butcher, and sells meat in the market in Toledo district’s capital Punta Gorda. He is interested in expanding his cacao farm to focus more on cacao production, but is currently constrained for land.
The family is requesting this loan to pay for 15 days of cleaning the fields and to hire three men to help with each harvest. During peak season, farmers harvest cacao at least two times a month. Cacao production this season is reaching its peak in the months of April and May and will gradually start slowing down starting June.
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.