Luciano and Rosenda are from the village of San Jose, Toledo’s cacao village extraordinaire. The couple has raised seven children, aged five months to 16 years. Three of the children are currently enrolled in school, and all but one still live in with the family.
The family manages a small farm of an acre and a half, with around 600 cacao trees. Luciano started to plant some years ago encouraged by the local cooperative, the market opportunity for cacao and his brothers’ advice to start cultivating the crop. It was a great decision, he says, because cacao is “the number one cash crop.” He’s excited about cacao not only for its stable income-generating potential but also because it is a long-term crop that continues to produce pods for decades after it is planted. Luciano’s favorite part of cacao farming is seeing the field clean: “it looks really good!” The cleaning itself, however, is less fun because it requires hard work and takes up a lot of time. Cacao grows in the middle of lush jungle, meaning the farmers have to constantly fight underbrush growth to keep the trees healthy and accessible.
Besides growing cacao, Luciano cultivates corn among other crops for home use. He is also currently in the Belize Defense Force, which he hopes he can retire from in two years to then fully focus on his farm. In the next few years, the family hopes to renovate their home to better accommodate the growing family. Luciano says the family plans to support the children in achieving the furthest education levels they have reason to want to pursue, but will also extend a helping hand if they instead choose to go into farming.
The family is requesting this loan for cleaning their 600 cacao trees as well as bagging 500 seeds and lining the land for a planned expansion. Once bagged, cacao seeds take about six months to grow into a seedling that is ready for transplantation into the ground. Lining is the process of planning and marking the spots where seedlings will be planted to ensure a linear structure and sufficient spacing. The loan will pay for the equivalent of 30 days of hired labor 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.