Antonio, 52, and his wife live in the village of San Antonio, on the under way highway that will connect southern Belize with Guatemala. The family, besides managing 3 acres of cacao, has raised 10 children, five of whom live in at the moment. The children are aged nine to 30, and two of them are still enrolled in school. The older kids have moved out, and some of them have followed their dad’s example and begun their own cacao farms.
With the help of his wife, Antonio tends to around 1,300 cacao trees that were planted five years back with the help of a local association of cacao growers. Cacao trees typically take about four to five years to become productive, and the family is happy most of their hard work five years ago is now paying back. Antonio says cacao farming is no trouble once the trees are grown and producing. The hardest thing about cacao for Antonio is the two-year period right after planting new trees. “You have to clean it often, not let the bush cover it, because the branches don’t make it through the bush,” he told Maya Mountain Cacao in perfect English, his second language after the native Maya Mopan language spoken in the village.
Besides cacao, the family grows corn and beans for home use. The two main sources of income for Antonio is a job as security officer for a local airline and cacao. In the future, he hopes to retire from the side job and focus on the farm and possibly expand it. The family puts a lot of focus on providing their children with the opportunity of education. “I put my other three boys to school even without me having a job,” said Antonio, adding that cacao and his job have helped save enough to put the rest of the children through school if they want to.
Antonio is requesting this loan to hire help with cleaning the three acres of cacao. Cleaning is the process of cutting underbrush surrounding cacao trees to clear access to them for harvesting and pruning. Cacao requires shade, and is typically grown among timber trees and underbrush. To keep their farms manageable, cacao farmers in southern Belize clean their fields about three times in a given year. The job at hand for Antonio will require and create about 12 days worth of work in the community.
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.