At CACAO.academy we produce an evidence-based approach for effective cacao farmer training for sustainable crop productivity, farmer health and household wealth. We build trans-disciplinary farmer education for civil service organisations, government agencies and companies to deliver knowledge and improved practices in cacao growing.
Research, design and deployment of effective education for improved health, wealth, and crop productivity in cacao farming.
Why we are here:
Despite millions of dollars spent on cacao farmer training, it is not effective in knowledge transfer or new practice adoption. Additionally, there is significant evidence of multifactorial impacts of farmer health, livelihood and ecology impacting productivity. CACAO.academy was founded in 2014 because neighbouring farmers of the BLYSS plantations wanted to also grow and sell cacao in an efficient and profitable way. Thus CACAO.academy was specifically created to identify the challenges and co-create improved training for farmers to enjoy a better quality of life. Until 2020, over 2000 farmers were trained from South America to Asia to Oceania via farmer field schools and peer-diffusion. We work best with organisations who want to improve social protection for farmers and see the avenue of training as a way to improve household health, wealth and crop yield. Our founding organisation is BLYSS GmbH, a German social enterprise founded in 2009 by Alyssa Jade McDonald – Baertl, Lyss, who created bean to bar chocolate, the BLYSS Bar in 2009 which sold for €30 p/50 grams and was rated 93/100 consistently in tests and developed wholesale cacao ingredient business for restaurants and manufacturers. The BLYSS team saw while they could grow organic cacao and sell luxury chocolate to a niche market as a small social enterprise, this model did not contribute to meaningful systems change. Founder Lyss is a third-generation tropical commodity farmer from Oceania and while the allure of the fancy food sector was fun to engage for a while, it felt completely empty compared to the vital and vulnerable aspect of chocolate; farmer wellbeing. In 2017 the classic chocolate manufacturing and trade of BLYSS was reduced so the team and partners could focus fully on farmer field schools in Asia / Oceania, political and civil service engagement in Europe around farmer wellbeing. Thus they came to focus on farmer education, recognising this area of the supply chain needed the most contribution. Thus, the origin of our evidence-based approach to farmer training comes from an experience in the business of chocolate from bean to bar. We are deeply experienced and informed of the complexities of the business, the role of large and small companies, national agriculture centres, producer organisations and what potential occurs when smart-collaboration occurs. We believe this is one of our key USPs, to have experienced actually making and selling a product in the market, to navigate export and import requirements, to share container space, to shelter one another during civil disruption and stop the farming every year or so to recover from a significant environmental or political challenge. While the world of the 2020s is very different to the first rubber farm that Lyss’ grandfather started in Papua New Guinea in 1935, and the scaled-up system her father ran in the 1960s, she experiences both the modernity of modern pro-social and common good business principles, deeply influenced by the last century of commodity growth and trade, and personal experience of product development and sale.
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Who we serve:
We work with multi-stakeholder programs typically made up of private enterprise, civil service organisation, research and government departments which have been brought together to identify challenges, create solutions and implement interventions for rural and remote farming households. We operate from a One Health model and see that farmer’s themselves are the priority stakeholder and work from a transdisciplinary approach with farmer households as the centre of our orientation.
How to work with us:
Often someone sends us a mail and asks if we want to contribute to a project.
Typically we work on programs in a team bringing in the specific capacity of farmer pedagogy and health, wealth, crop productivity learning points. It can occur via conducting evidence assessments, formulating and testing learning curriculum, monitoring and evaluation or programme creation and delivery. While the organisation is based from the social enterprise, BLYSS GmbH from Alyssa Jade McDonald – Baertl, we construct our teams for every programme depending on what expertise is required: contracting in researchers, technology partners, CSOs, public grants or bodies or unilateral organisations. As every project is entirely different, you can follow our #NOW page to see what we are working on and for whom to get an idea of what is currently running.
CACAO.academy was formed after Lyss created a bean to bar chocolate company in 2009 with her father who bought valuable farming skills (from his time planting rubber in Papua New Guinea) and found that the most vulnerable aspect of the operation was the social protection of farmers in the team. She was asked continuously by neighbouring farmers to explain and show ‘how’ to grow a nursery to chocolate company. Thus, wholesale and retail business shut down, and the whole focus went on education, from farmers in fields to chefs in party shops. Since 2018, Alyssa Jade started post-graduate research at the University of Sydney under the guidance of Professor David Guest and Professor Merrilyn Walton who influenced her approach to One Health and trans-disciplinary models of creating and forming education; looking from plant pathology to public health as the source of strength within farming communities. Lyss is a third-generation farmer whose family grew rubber and ran cattle in Papua New Guinea for two generations previously. Her orientation is strongly influenced by this personal background, developing island states, tropical commodities, civil and environmental challenge and equality. The fundamental orientation from CACAO.academy is to contribute to positive systems change. So far, a couple of thousand farmers have been trained in field schools, village nursery setups, with travelling plant specialists and through teacher-training. Anecdotal evidence suggested the training directly increased the living income of farmers and improved plant productivity, however it was under the work of social enterprise and we did not clearly measure baseline and intervention results, or have control groups. Thus, we work now from an evidence-based approach, so we can be sure about which education interventions empirically helps farmers. That’s our whole purpose, and we believe it takes a village of experts from around the world to help us. Thus, we collaborate, JV and consult to a variety of projects.
This website was started in 2020 as a way to document and share insights as they occur, to introduce various collaborators and be a source of information and influence to organisations interested to create effective farmer training, upskilling in health, wealth and crop for new practice development and improved livelihoods. It should be a resource for companies, government departments, unilateral and civil service organisations to find helpful contributions from evidence about what brings value to cacao farmer training. The cacao.academy and the website are not affiliated with any external funding or financial partner, unless explicitly mentioned, and are a result from BLYSS GmbH, the social enterprise from Alyssa Jade McDonald – Baertl and prioritises independent review of market and industry activities and programs. Users can sign up for a newsletter which comes out irregularly to keep in touch here.
Last update status: 23 May 2020.