FCCI Cacao Academy is a collaborative digital cacao farmer peer training platform launched in 2020 in response to Covid-19 agricultural extension shutdowns. Read our concept note here. Our pilot program, in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services Progresa Caribe project in Nicaragua, supported by funding from USDA, was completed remotely from June 2020 through January 2021. FCCI Cacao Academy delivered virtual training in cacao quality for approximately 160 cacao farming households, extension officers, mentor farmers, cacao traders, and chocolate makers. We co-designed the curriculum and instructional technology method with the farmers to ensure that delivery was culturally and technologically appropriate to their context, and were able to bundle in a number of health related pieces of curriculum that proved helpful for overall food safety training. Additional collaborators joined us for this project, including The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT in relation to the International Standards for the Assessment of Cocoa Quality and Flavor, the Digital Social Innovation Lab of the University of Mannheim, SAP corporate volunteers, and The Unconnected. The project was also supported by 12 student volunteers from 5 universities.
Throughout the process of building our first pilot, we offered weekly livestreams via the FCCI Cacao Academy Conversation Series, featuring dozens of experts in conversation with our project co-founders Dr. Carla D. Martin and Alyssa Jade McDonald-Baertl, hosted by Lauren Heineck of Well Tempered Media. Those conversations, which took place primarily in English, are available to view below (also with Spanish subtitles).