Aboitiz Foundation Inc.’s ‘Byaheng Digiskarte’ has partnered with Benguet-based SG Farmers Association to help farmers rebound from the spoils of pandemic by helping association members pivot digitally into the virtual marketplace.
Testimonials from the farmer group showed how the foundation assisted farmers like Emilia Kio-an, a member of SG Farmers Association and owner of Alredo’s Farm in Benguet, recovered her livelihood that was disrupted by the pandemic. Due to lockdown and closures, she and her fellow farmers struggled to find ways to sell their fresh farm products, leaving them with much lower sales and lots of food waste.
“We cannot go out to sell our vegetables and we have products that got spoiled in our farm. Before, producing food was quite difficult because of facilities we used. Now we have facilities provided by Aboitiz Foundation and Hedcor, and they also provided us with financial assistance,” she shared.
‘Byaheng Digiskarte’ is an advocacy project that orients farmers to become digitally literate and leverage the benefits of technology to optimize production and increase their income.
As one of the project’s beneficiaries, the association received a food processing facility and its members started on training courses, starter kits, and equipment. Through the project, Kio-an was able to expand her line of products beyond fresh farm produce.
After a series of training sessions under the program, Kio-an started to put her learnings to test. she started a simple process of drying ampalaya into tea and manufacturing ampalaya pickles, in addition to selling fresh farm produce like ampalaya, french beans, lemon grass, turmeric, and pandan leaves.
“When we were training, instead of throwing (vegetables) away, we got what was to be discarded and processed it so nothing was wasted. Instead of having waste, we now have more products,” she said.
Through the project, Emilia and fellow agripreneurs were also able to go beyond local market stalls and serve a broader range of customers by opening their own online shops through Session Groceries, an e-commerce platform that connects farmers to sellers and delivers products to clients’ doorsteps.
Orders are made through the platform and farmers are immediately prompted for new orders. They harvest the crops and arrange delivery straight at the doorsteps of customers from Benguet, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and Metro Manila.
“We are grateful to Aboitiz for partnering with Session Groceries and SG Farmers Association. It is an honor to be included and to receive equipment for the farmers,” said Session Groceries CEO Iloisa Romaraog-Diga.
“It’s not easy to start and sustain but because of the opportunities provided by groups like you, everything becomes easy. We will try to do well in what we do so we can also be a blessing to other people and the community we serve just like you,” she added
Association members learned to add value to crops especially during seasons when harvest is at its peak and bountiful. What can de discarded as produce is converted into a commodity with value that increases farmer’s income.
‘Byaheng Digiskarte’ provided many firsts and milestones for agripreneurs. Aside from learning how to process produce and venture online, they were also able to open their very first bank accounts through UnionBank which allows seamless online transactions with customers and helps them manage their finances.
“At first we did not have smartphones, we only used a keypad phone. Now we have to use digital [tools] like applications and going online),” Emilia said.
With a physical and online market, new food processing facilities, and an online bank account, agripreneurs are able to grow their business and are now more equipped to adapt to changing times, ready for an emerging digital future.
‘Byaheng Digiskarte’ is a flagship project of the Enterprise Development Program of Aboitiz Foundation designed to help in the recovery and growth of MSMEs and cooperatives that were affected during the pandemic. Its partners include AboitizPower subsidiary Hedcor Inc., UnionBank, Session Groceries, One Concord Food Solutions, and SG Farmers Association, Inc.