CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Aug. 20, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (FCCI) and cacao.academy set out to help partner organizations in cacao farming communities address the new reality of fully remote teaching and learning – a move that many organizations had not planned for. This included the launch of FCCI Cacao Academy, a collaborative digital cacao farmer peer-learning platform, to support cacao farming households and agricultural extension programs to quickly address the challenge of providing training when facing social distancing requirements. In the short time between June and August 2020, the FCCI Cacao Academy team designed and produced a first phase of digital learning content to be delivered to 600 farming households in Nicaragua, with additional materials in development for delivery to communities in the Dominican Republic and Colombia through the end of the year. This represents a one hundred thousand dollar investment made by FCCI and our partners in helping our fellow educators ensure learning continuity.
While systemic challenges to cacao farming household health, livelihood, and crop productivity have been inherent for decades in cacao, Covid-19 social distancing requirements mean that extension (training and resilience building) is significantly reduced or canceled for farmers. The FCCI Cacao Academy purpose is to build effective cacao farmer training for entire households, led by peers and co-created to encompass important interdependencies. To ensure success, FCCI Cacao Academy employs a methodology that ensures curriculum and instructional technology are farmer-directed and evidence-based, to successfully address the transdisciplinary, multifactorial reality of farmers’ training needs and wants.
Beyond the first phase of delivery, FCCI Cacao Academy will continue to create resources and provide support to cacao farming communities as they adapt to our «new normal,» and create long-term, transparent solutions for success for learners and trainers. The FCCI Cacao Academy conversation series, with weekly livestream sessions tracking the development of the project with expert guests from academia, industry, technology, and international development from around the world, has attracted over 10,000 viewers interested in learning how to best deliver remote and distance learning for cacao farmers. We saw that their biggest concerns were around encouraging learner engagement, creating a sense of community, and effectively receiving and giving feedback.
Looking ahead to 2021, many institutions are still uncertain whether they can deliver in-person learning and at what capacity. They also need to be prepared to pivot back to fully remote training should there be additional waves of Covid-19 and, in the long-term, when facing other common interruptions to agricultural extension delivery such as natural disasters or political instability. With FCCI Cacao Academy building toward phase 2 of curriculum deployment, educators can be resilient in the face of abrupt shifts to how teaching is delivered by leveraging a growing, robust catalog of materials.
There will always be the need for in-person learning in cacao farmer training, but the pandemic has illustrated that online learning must be a key pillar of every training program’s strategy. Everything FCCI and our partners have been building over the past five years has prepared us for this moment to support cacao farming communities around the world in navigating our «new normal.» Together, we can deliver impactful digital learning experiences in the upcoming year and beyond.
About the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute
The Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization devoted to research and education on fine cacao and chocolate – in collaboration with a number of partners. We develop educational programming for consumers, chocolate professionals, specialty retailers, and foodservice professionals; conduct research and disseminate information on specialty cacao and chocolate origin, processing, production, quality, and ethics; and build community by creating opportunities for knowledge sharing and mutual understanding throughout the cacao-chocolate supply chain.
For more information, contact Dr. Carla D. Martin, Executive Director, Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute
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SOURCE Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute