Dear chocolate friends!
Join us this week as we introduce our farmers and our farm field officers!
There is no doubt in my mind that one common global conversation over the past 10 months was “Agriculture” or more specifically “Food Security”. The world was almost at a standstill as CoronaVirus triggered a sequence of unprecedented changes in almost every aspect of our daily lives. It drove millions to think about “Farming”.
While so many other things came to a screeching halt, the wheels of farming kept turning, albeit at a moderately slower pace compared to what it once was. Lockdowns and curfews made it challenging but it kept moving.
People who have never farmed before made use of the downtime to start their very own window, balcony, and backyard garden.
In the global cacao industry the commodities market became more fragile while niche markets had more ability to withstand the short sharp shocks, especially in developed countries; but not so in developing countries.
Our very own Belize Chocolate industry depends mostly on the tourism market. The international airport being shut down for almost 7 months meant that there were no tourists.
Fortunately for our growers, our Mahogany Chocolate wheels kept churning and the trees and plants kept growing!
Our farms and our out-growers’ farms needed the same constant nurturing and care as any other year. From weeding to pruning and shade management, notwithstanding the strenuous but traditional cultivation of other food crops for life’s sustenance, our farmers always find time for cacao farming!
Our Peini Cacao Team
We are delighted to begin putting a face and a name to the hard-working cacao farmers who work on our farms and in our community.
Thomas Chub – The Grafter and Farm Supervisor
There is no better demonstration of commitment than the 23-mile daily commute taken by Mr. Thomas Chub, from his home in Santa Ana Village to our central depot in Crique Jute Village. During the day he also visits three of our other farms that are 15 miles apart.
Thomas joined our merry band of cacao farmers in March 2017 as the nursery manager and has since been promoted to manage our 5 farms including our depot and nursery.
Thomas is the classic embodiment of our fervorous quote that “our team loves what they do and they take ownership”. He constantly reminds us that the chocolate is already made by him and his 15 team members when they supply us fermented and dried cacao beans!
Considering the effort, time, and dedication, he is right! For without good beans no good chocolate can be made!
Mr. Em – Emeterio Sho
Emeterio (“Mr. Em”) has been with us since the first time our founders visited Belize to “kick the trees”. Emeterio hails from Na Luum Ca village, a small village with a little over 100 residents just 5 minutes from San Jose Village, the cacao growing capital of Toledo.
Though Na Luum Ca is about 30 miles west of Punta Gorda Town, its winding and muddy roads can take as long as 2 hours to travel. But it is one of the best growing areas for cacao, in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, and our 50-acre cacao farm is located north of the village.
So it’s a perfect fit for Mr. Em to supervise the operation of that farm. Along with his 5 team members they were responsible for land preparation, planting and now daily maintenance.
At 63 years of age, Mr. Em also cultivates his own 48-acre of land with root and grain crops for his family, rotating the use of his land year after year. His three sons, from a family of six, all above 18 years old, cultivate their food crops, actively utilizing Mr. Em’s land.
Mr. Em has also worked in the cacao Industry and on several development projects in Toledo that started in 1999 and his recent work prior to joining our company was with a cacao bean trading company.
Jose Antonio Cal
Jose Antonio is another cacao grower who has taken a lead role in managing our Crique Jute Farm. He joined in 2017 and was a part of the land preparation, planting and farm management team.
Living in San Antonio Village for all of his 44 years, Antonio is an avid farmer cultivating forty acres of family land which comprises cacao, corn and livestock.
Along with his wife and 3 children, Antonio manages his farm during holidays and on weekends when he is not at our Peini farm looking after the team or exerting his pound of energy pruning and caring for our trees.
Antonio lives in the village of San Antonio, 3 miles south of our farm and is always within reach if needed. Antonio works closely with his team of 2 other field officers, executing farm management interventions outlined by our lead agriculture expert Andres Lopez.
Local Cacao Farmers
One hundred and fifty growers outside of our Peini Cacao farms are very important to us. Their hard work and dedication to their farms does not go unnoticed and we do what we can to help them grow.
In the last 2 years, we have provided 40,000 cacao seedlings to assist in their farm expansion. We have provided training in post-harvest and farm management that included basic pruning techniques. Their subsistence livelihood and farming techniques mean they also cultivate other crops, although on a smaller scale.
Mr. Evaristo Cowo
In this episode, we will feature a very hardworking leader, farmer and father of 6, Mr. Evaristo Cowo of San Antonio Village.
Baris, as he is commonly referred to in his village, San Antonio, has been cultivating 16 acres of cacao since 1990, 2 of which include a blend of approximately 75% criollo trees. Its production makes up a combined 4,000 lbs (fermented and dried) produced annually.
Baris’ cacao farm is located north of San Antonio Village, 40 minutes walking distance from his home. Cultivated on his 30-acre farmland are various root crops, herbs, fruit and other tree crops which he harvests and sells at the Punta Gorda Town market.
Besides farming, Baris also takes the time to teach his 2 younger sons the art of subsistence farming by taking them along on weekends to the farm or preparing preaching lessons for his 30 member church group which he leads.
While he is away at the farm or at the market selling his produce Mrs. Pantaleona Cowo, Baris’ wife, takes care of the livestock and ornamental herbs around the home to help supplement their diet and generate additional income.
Without Kakaw Farmers There Is No Chocolate!
Our field technicians and our out-growers are important to our story as they are vital for the origins of our cacao.
At Mahogany Chocolate we value the efforts and contribution of our field workers and our growers. It is abundantly clear that their intervention, dedication and support of their families are integral to our story; for without kakaw farmers there is no chocolate!
Have a happy chocolate day.
Luis Armando Choco