By Alexis R. Milan
Cacao farmers in southern Belize, under the umbrella group Maya Mountain Cacao (MMC), have organized to improve growing techniques and boost the level of production of local farmers.
MMC, which is made up of mostly Maya cacao farmers along with Belizean chocolate makers and American entrepreneurs, have started developing a world-class demonstration farm which, when in full bloom would boost Belize’s cacao production by 50 percent.
MMC Field Director Gabriel Pop said the demonstration farm will be a great tool to create economic opportunities in southern Belize while passing traditional Mayan agricultural techniques to the younger generation.
MMC recently acquired 120 acres just outside the village of San Pedro Columbia in the Toledo District and have started cultivating the land for their demonstration farm. The purpose of the demonstration farm is to share techniques and train younger generations on how to grow cacao in the hope that the industry will expand even further and improve economic activity in the area.
MMC has started a campaign to raise $80,000 to assist with the development of the farm. The group has already started planting cacao trees on the area intended for the farm and their goal is to plant a total of 82,000 new cacao trees. The group has also started providing technical assistance and micro loans to over 165 farmers.
According to MMC, the group provides cacao to seven customers in the United States currently and they have another 80 interested potential buyers on their waiting list to buy Belizean cacao.
MMC was founded in 2010 and has been working with local farmers and entrepreneurs to develop the cacao industry in southern Belize by developing partnerships with US cacao consumers for the fine chocolate industry in that country.