The Toledo Cacao Growers Association signed an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank in Belize City this week, by which a member of the IDB group, the Multilateral Investment Fund, will contribute almost US$750,000 to support cacao production in Toledo.
The project will connect small farmers in rural Mayan communities to global supply chains, thereby significantly boosting Belize’s exports of organically grown cacao. The project will work with the Association to expand economic opportunities for cacao growing communities in rural Belize.
The project will offer farmers technical support to strengthen their cacao production, using organic and sustainable methods. They will also be encouraged to use harvesting and processing methods, which ensure the cacao meets flavor and quality standards.
The Association’s business management capacity will also be strengthened, with the use of a geographic information system to forecast crop yields and for strategic planning. The project will also promote the cultivation of other high value organic crops, such as spices and peppers, in tandem with the cacao to supplement farmers’ incomes. The project will develop multimedia training kits in the Kek’chi and Mopan Maya languages, and produce documentaries and case studies on the sector.
These efforts should benefit some 1,100 small farmers and their families, by increasing their level of income, which will result from these productivity and quality improvements.
Over the next three to five years, the Toledo cacao growers expect to double the volume of their cacao exports into high value markets, from 45 tons to 90 tons per year. The area of land certified as organic and fair trade will increase by 30%. The project will also seek to increasingly involve women and youth in cacao production, through training in bean fermentation, and financial literacy.
Smallholder farmers will receive vital assistance from the project, enabling them to sell their organically grown cacao in the world niche market for this product, in a competitively and sustainable manner. This will provide much needed income for rural Mayan families in the isolated agrarian communities of Toledo, where organic cacao cultivation is an environmentally friendly form of economic development.
Besides the MIF grant, Kraft Foods and the T.C.G.A. will also help fund the project, bringing total financing to just over US$1 million. The participation of Kraft Foods UK’s Sustainable Supply Chain Division in this project will provide opportunities for farmers to participate in supply chains with significant potential for to achieve economies of scale through expansion. The T.C.G.A. has an existing relationship with Kraft Foods’ premium Green and Black’s brand, which markets chocolate made from Belizean organic cacao as Mayan Gold.