The HCP Board of Administrators and team members recently gathered at the Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE) to strategize ways to better service our designees. Having the opportunity to meet in person, analyze our mission, and explore the ways we can effectively implement it into every piece of what we do was paramount to be able to practice what we preach. Our mission remains that to: “discover, identify and preserve fine flavor Heirloom cacao varieties for the conservation of biological diversity and the empowerment of farming communities.” and we are elated to share the many ways we will be moving forward as an organization.
The scenarios we ran through during our discussions were realized at Maya Mountain Cacao where we were welcomed by the team.
Maya mountain cacao is a collective of over 480 certified organic cacao farmers. They have implemented a support program for farmers who with to obtain organic status to guide them through their transition. During harvest season, Maya Mountain goes to villages as far as 60 km * to buy cacao from small-scale farmers. The beans are brought back to their facilities and processing begins immediately. The HCP was provided with a thorough explanation of their growing, fermenting, drying and export process. Maya Mountain primary buyer is Uncommon Cacao, which distributes the beans across the USA and Europe. Last year, they exported 100 metric tons of cacao, 6 of which were exported locally.
Maya Mountain’s mission is very closely aligned with that of the HCP.
“Since Maya Mountain’s inception, we have always maintained and kept true to our mission
to support the livelihood of small farmers. We also seek to support women farmers.
We currently have 44 female cacao farmers. The number is increasing.”
- Serapio Chun, Cacao Operations Officer,
Maya Mountain Cacao
In 2014, Maya Mountain Cacao (MMC) was designated Heirloom by the HCP. In 2018, HCP supported a nursery program at MMC funded by a grant through Penn State University. A clonal plot of 240 trees was planted, and this year they will be harvested for the first time. The plot sits proudly on a hill not far from the Guatemalan border overlooking the grand landscape of the Mayan Mountain Range. The trees are flourishing with colorful fruits of all different phenotypes. Through the site visit, it became clear that there are many maintenance challenges involved with the nursery. Visiting the farm and hearing the challenges first hand only enhances our drive to carry out our mission. We understand that we still have a lot of work to do. We’re taking active steps to integrate new systems and adapt old ones that will facilitate relationships across the value chain, create educational resources for farmers and retailers, and enhance the relationship between the farmers and our organization.