Amid the rapidly changing financial environment brought about by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Credit Policy Council (DA-ACPC) continues to strengthen its digitalization efforts in the implementation of its credit programs.

“Now, more than ever, as we continue fulfilling our mandate of providing easy, timely and affordable credit to farmers and fisherfolk, we are recognizing that digital financing is the way forward,” said DA-ACPC Executive Director Jocelyn Alma Badiola.

Loan Disbursement Solution and KAYA Card

The digital transformation of the DA-ACPC credit programs began with its partnership with digital finance and services company PayMaya, for an innovative financial disbursement platform for the Kapital Access for Young Agripreneurs (KAYA) Loan Program.

Through the said partnership, PayMaya will allow DA-ACPC’s partner lending conduits (PLCs) for KAYA to disburse loans to borrowers digitally through their PayMaya-enabled prepaid payment cards. The loan disbursement solution for PLCs is 24/7 and has a real-time crediting through the PayMaya PayOut web-based portal.

Program beneficiaries will also be provided with KAYA prepaid cards that can be linked to their PayMaya accounts. Through said card, young agripreneurs will enjoy various functionalities of the PayMaya card that allows them to make online and in-store payments, pay bills, buy load, send money, and withdraw funds, among other financial services which will allow them to continue to transact even in the face of pandemic-related restrictions such as physical distancing.

“With this digital platform, we will be able to reach out and convince more Filipino millennials to engage in agriculture, fishery and agribusiness ventures, and more importantly bankroll their respective projects,” said DA Secretary William Dar.

“As our lockdown experience has shown, we need to further explore the cyberspace and take our digitalization efforts to the next level as part of the new normal,” added the DA Secretary.

Online Market Place and Inventory Tool

The DA-ACPC also partnered with digital solutions provider IOT Technology for the AgriKonek app, an online marketplace and inventory tool that aims to empower farmers and fishers by enabling them to efficiently manage their agri-fishery business.

The AgriKonek app is a downloadable front-end application where agripreneurs can post their products, quantity of their produce, price, and other production information so that potential buyers or clients can see them conveniently and make their orders online.

Through the AgriKonek, farmers and fishers can also effectively take control of their production through monitoring inventory, tracking changes, and eliminating inefficiencies to better control their production costs. Further, the app will help them build their own digital market with their own brand.

“With the launching of this new technology, we are hoping to attract more young blood to give the Philippine Agriculture a second look, and consider to start a journey of not only becoming agripreneurs, but also partners in national development,” said DA Secretary William Dar.

Initially, borrowers from the KAYA program will be on-boarded in the new digital platform. However, ED Badiola said that beneficiaries from DA-ACPC’s other credit programs will also be integrated in the AgriKonek soon after.

“With the AgriKonek, we are actually turning the challenges of COVID-19 into an opportunity as we are attracting more youth, who are naturally attracted to digital tools, to go back to agriculture and fishery,” said ED Badiola. “By prompting increased use of digital technologies, COVID-19 may have unintentionally made agriculture more attractive to younger generations. We can consider this as a silver-lining in these uncertain times.”

The DA-ACPC Dashboard

In line with its commitment to provide timely, relevant and accurate information on its credit programs, the DA-ACPC, through its Information Systems Management Division (ISMD) recently launched the Program Accomplishment Dashboard (ACPC Dashboard) in which the public can access up-to-date accomplishment reports on DA-ACPC’s programs.

The interactive dashboard, which is available on the official DA-ACPC website (acpc.gov.ph), provides a live snapshot of program performance across various dimensions using a set of more impactful graphs, charts, and other metrics and visuals designed and historically known to be the most helpful in analyzing program progress and accomplishments.

The dashboard is also an interactive platform. Users can filter for themselves the program accomplishment information that they need, including data on loan releases by area (up to the municipality level) and by type of commodity, number of small farmer- and fisherfolk -borrowers, as well as number of agri-fishery-based micro and small enterprise (MSE)-borrowers, among others. All information contained in the dashboard are subject to regular updating.

By making various graphs, charts, and other visuals on program accomplishment easily accessible online, the ACPC Program Dashboard will make a program’s story more transparent to the public and will also be helpful in providing program administrators with quick insights on how program implementation might further be improved.

Agri-Credit e-Portal (ACE Portal)

The DA-ACPC’s ISMD also developed the Agri-Credit e-Portal (ACE Portal), a digital platform where its more than 250 PLCs can conveniently submit loan disbursement reports (LDRs).

With the creation of the ACE Portal, the DA-ACPC can now easily consolidate data and generate reports compared to when the submission of LDRs were manually done. Said online platform also minimizes errors, tracks loan disbursement of PLCs as against the funds downloaded, and serves as a monitoring tool to fast track the delivery of credit to beneficiaries.

ACPC Access

Due to mobility restrictions brought about by the pandemic, the ISMD also launched the ACPC Agri-Credit Client Electronic Signup System (ACPC ACCESS), an upgraded version of the DA-ACPC’s online application portal for all its current credit programs.

Through the ACPC ACCESS (acpcaccess.ph), the loan applicants can monitor the status of their application online.  It has a self-assessment feature which links applicants to the loan program that is appropriate for his/her eligibility requirements. It also has an online appointment feature which allows the applicants to select preferred schedule for the online program briefing and business planning workshop. Through the said innovation, the applicants will also know which PLC shall he/she be endorsed to once complete documentary requirements were submitted.

Embracing Digitalization

“To embrace digitalization in the different processes of our work is no longer just an option subject to budget availability. The extraordinary situation today calls for government agencies not only to step up, but also to be at the top of our game so we can respond and assist more people within a faster timeframe,” said DA-ACPC Director Norman William Kraft, who also handles the ISMD.

He added that investing in IT solutions and resources is the only way to achieve digitalization if the DA-ACPC is to maintain its relevance in the field of public service. According to Director Kraft, the DA-ACPC has included in its plans for 2021 the development and implementation of close to 7 new system programs that are aimed at easing up as well as creating additional processes for both external and internal users/clients.

“With the involvement of key players such as PayMaya, IOT Technology and our PLCs in the digital financing ecosystem, we will be able to significantly contribute to financial inclusion by providing easier financing access to unserved and underserved small farmers and fisherfolk,” said ED Badiola.

The DA-ACPC’s implementation of digital solutions supports the DA’s program for the digitalization of the country’s agriculture sector under the “new normal” to achieve its goals of reducing poverty and attaining food security in the country.