Byaheng Digiskarte empowers agripreneurs to adapt and thrive in a digital future
The Covid-19 pandemic affected many businesses and industries, among those gravely affected was the agriculture industry which had to grapple with financial and food loss as well as challenges in logistics after everything came to a halt.
Emilia Kio-an, a member of SG Farmers Association and owner of Alredo’s Farm in Benguet, was among those affected by the business disruption brought about 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.
“Mahirap. Hindi kami makakalabas [para] magbenta ng mga gulay namin at may gulay na hindi na nabebenta at nabubulok na sa farm namin (It was hard. We cannot go out to sell our vegetables and we have products that got spoiled in our farm),” Emilia said.
The health crises and sudden lockdown saw small agri-businesses close and the industry struggled as a whole, forcing many agripreneurs to find solutions to stay afloat including immersing themselves in new business opportunities in the digital sphere.
‘Byaheng Digiskarte’, Aboitiz Foundation Inc.’s project to help micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and cooperatives (MSMEs) affected during the pandemic, uses technology to capacitate and empower farmers to manage their own agri-businesses online, and help them be more digitally literate and capable.
After launching in April 2021 and partnering with different stakeholders, the project made its way to various areas nationwide including Benguet where it teamed up with SG Farmers Association.
As one of the project’s beneficiaries, the association was provided with a food processing facility and its members also received training courses, starter kits, and equipment. Through the project, Emilia was able to expand her line of products beyond fresh farm produce and optimize her income.
“Noon medyo hirap kasi mahirap yung facilities kung saan kami nagpo-process. Ngayon may facilities na kami na tulong ng Aboitiz Foundation at Hedcor, at [tinulungan rin nila kami] lalo sa financial assistance (Before [food production] 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),” Emilia said.
After a series of training sessions under the program, Emilia began developing and selling ampalaya tea and ampalaya pickles, in addition to farm products like ampalaya, french beans, lemon grass, turmeric, and pandan leaves.
“Nung nag-training kami imbes na itapon, kinuha namin yung mga ‘patapon’ at yun yung pino-proseso namin kaya walang nasasayang. Imbes na masayang, nadagdagan ang produkto namin (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 then harvest the crops and arrange delivery 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 Sessions Groceries Chief Executive Officer 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.”
“Imbes na yun lang ang benta namin dati ngayon nadagdagan na. Dahil nadagdagan kami ng ibebenta, nakatipid pa kami dahil imbes na itapon, pwede pa maging pera,” (Instead of just having farm produce we now have more products. Our income increased. We have more products to sell and we were able to save because instead of throwing away [products], we are able to convert it to cash),” Emilia said.
‘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 help them manage their finances.
“Noong una wala pa kami nung digital na mga cellphone, keypad naman ang [ginagamit] namin. Tapos ngayon kailangan digital ang mga gamit halimbawa sa app, sa online (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. #