• cacoa

    Cacao pods. (courtesy Dandelion Chocolate)

    In Quest for Better Chocolate, Alumna Helps Increase Farmers’ Wages

    Wednesday, November 26, 2014
    News Type

Maya Granit '11
Maya Granit ’11 is the managing director for Maya Mountain Cacao in Belize.

Maya Granit ’11 is the managing director for Maya Mountain Cacao in Belize.

In the past four years, Maya Granit ’11 has watched her career transform from placing stickers on chocolate bars in a California factory to helping direct a company that raises cacao farmers’ wages in rural Belize.

“We’re in an exciting growth phase right now,” says Granit, the managing director for Maya Mountain Cacao, which connects organic farmers in Belize to specialty chocolate producers in the United States and soon, Europe. “We work with 10 companies, and there are 80 on our wait list.”

After graduating from Dartmouth with a history degree, Granit moved to San Francisco to work for Dandelion Chocolate, an innovative company that sourced its cacao beans from organic Central American farmers. During her first role of adhering stickers to chocolate bars, Granit devised a new candy wrapper that decreased packaging costs by 30 percent. Her employers took notice, and soon Granit was learning about the process for sourcing cacao during a three-week trip to Belize.

In the humid Belize air, immersed in one of the richest ecosystems in the Western Hemisphere, Granit found herself moved by the mission of the Maya Mountain Cacao and the warmth and earnestness of the people. “It seemed like I could make a bigger impact by working at the origin,” says Granit. “Plus the hammocks and rivers didn't hurt!”

VIDEO: Learn about Maya Mountain Cacao’s relationship with one specialty chocolate maker.

In March 2014, with the blessing of Dandelion Chocolate, Granit accepted the job as Maya’s new managing director, supervising six employees and helping oversee transactions with more than 350 farmers. She’s currently the only American in the 25-person company. She describes her experience as “an unparalleled opportunity to help drive the growth of a company with environmental and social ethics.” 

Granit’s undergraduate experience as a volunteer for MEDLIFE, a Dartmouth student organization that established medical clinics in rural villages in Ecuador, gave her some familiarity with Central America.

The company’s impact on this rural community in Belize is not lost on Granit. “In the past four years farmers have reported a 20 percent increase in wages,” she says. “Also, the investment in Maya has also attracted other organizations, such as Kiva loans, and this has improved the quality of life for many in the region. In Toledo, for example, 85 percent more children are going to school than four years ago.” 

“I feel as if cacao is where coffee was about 15 years ago,” she says of her company’s aspirations. “Now, there are many farms that grow high-quality coffee in a more responsible manner, but not so much with cacao. We want to fill that need.”