A workshop entitled “Access to Finance” was held during the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum in Barbados last week. Banco Adopem was invited to deliver a brief, outlining its experience as a provider of financial services to smallholder farmers and groups engaged in agricultural value chains in Dominican Republic.
In 1982, Banco Adopem opened its doors to provide agricultural financial services to the Dominican Republic. Originally founded as a Non-Profit Organisation, Banco Adopem was dedicated to credit and training support solely to women located in rural communities. In 2000, further penetration occurred with the delivery of services to all smallholder farmers and groups (inclusive of males) engaged in organised agricultural value chains. Today, they remain so committed to the provision of efficient financial services mandate that they developed an android-based application for credit applications in the field.
How does the Android App help?
Mariano Frontera, SME and Agri-Business Product Coordinator for Banco Adopem explained about the use of ICT within his organisation and within the context of the Dominican Republic. The bank developed the application to allow credit officers to access and evaluate credit applications in the field. This move was very important as many farmers live in remote rural areas and face many logistical difficulties.
Banco Adopem strategically and completely integrated the app into their banking core system. In turn, this increases the efficiency of access to financial services and lends to the recently coined term, “mobile money”. The app even allows credit collections and payments along with the complementary printing of receipts in the field.
According to Banco Adopem,
“Each agricultural product and livestock has its own harvest time and commercialisation characteristic.”
Using the application’s model, each product maintains its own cash flow with its credit re-payment programme being effectively adjusted to each specific cash flow. The speaker advised that when using such a tool, new organisations should always tailor re-payment programmes and otherwise avoid the one-size-fits-all “pre-packed re-payment programmes”.
Training of credit officers
To ensure successful technology adoption and use for agri-financing, Banco Adopem engages credit officers in intensive training. This encompasses rigorous training of officers to maximise the delivery of the bank’s specialised products, and the thorough understanding of training and credit technology.
Financial-related ICTs in Jamaica
In Jamaica, the St. Thomas Cooperative Credit Union, now First Heritage Cooperative Credit Union uses laptops, tablets and mobile printers as Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to register farmers as members and to commence their loan applications. However, farmers still have to visit the local parish offices to complete transactions, including the payment of monies. In this light, there is room for adoption of similar android apps to make the system somewhat complete.
Improving the adoption and use of financial-related ICTs in the Caribbean
ICT use is still very novel and under-utilised within the agriculture sector of many CARICOM countries.
For a number of years, the ACP region has really been focused on value chain development and the integration of ICTs to enhance performance. Realistically, the Caribbean is still home to an aging farming population. Many of these farmers are still affected by literacy issues, which dampens the expectations of them maximising ICT usage within their enterprises.
Therefore, introducing similar apps aimed at delivering improved services to them can aid in increasing the overall financial knowledge and technical know-how for enterprise development.
It will also be quite interesting to see other micro-financiers providing similar services to farmers as this will truly aid in revolutionising the agricultural sector. I anticipate an intensive and rapid approach to the development of ICT activities in Agri-Financing in the Caribbean.
ICT for Agriculture… For the Win!!! Youth… Get involved!
The Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum is organised by CTA and partners in St Michael, Barbados from 02-06 November 2015. Stay tuned for more blogposts. Follow the Forum with the Hashtag #CPAF15!
Photo credit: Luke Smith
Blogpost by Latoya Lewis, Social Reporter for the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum 2015.