Thomas, 46, manages a cacao farm with his wife Rosa and children in the beautiful village of Pueblo Viejo. The village is located in the southernmost part of Toledo district in the country of Belize, with no access to electricity and alongside an under way highway to Guatemala. The couple has raised nine children, six of whom currently live in.
Thomas started his cacao farming with the assistance of a local association. He manages a farm with 400 productive cacao trees, and 300 newly planted seedlings – cacao trees raised in a bag before transplanting. Besides cacao, the family cultivates the traditional Maya package of corn, beans and rice for home use and extra income. Cacao is his favorite crop, says Thomas, because it is both a cash crop and a staple at home. Most Mayan families use some of their cacao for making cacao drink – stone ground beans that are mixed with water and used as an alternative to coffee.
The family puts a lot of focus on their children’s education. Four of the kids are currently enrolled in either primary or secondary school. Farming alone hasn’t been sufficient to pay school fees, so Thomas has been doing jobs in construction and security to offset the cost. In the future, Thomas hopes to expand his farm to grow it for the future generations in the family.
The family is requesting this loan to hire help with cleaning the 300 newly planted trees. Cleaning plays an important role in the cacao industry, as “if you don’t clean, you can’t get nothing from that tree. If it’s not clean, it won’t bear, “ Thomas told Maya Mountain Cacao in perfect English, his second language after Maya Mopan. Newly planted seedlings need space and sunlight to grow and prosper, and therefore require extra diligent care. The job at hand will require and create 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.