Future-proofing coops towards resiliency
By Lina Sagaral Reyes
Last of two parts
IMPASUG-ONG, Bukidnon (BukidnonNews.Net/08 January 2022)"Digital literacy made cooperatives’ members adapt to the new normal of remote and virtual communication, including e-learning and e-commerce," said Sylvia Okinlay-Paraguya, as she relates about relief operations in Typhoon Odette-hit areas.
The chief executive officer of the National Association of Training Centers for Cooperatives (Natcco) is not a stranger to relief operations herself.
More than a year ago, Natcco, together with the non-government organization Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), established food relief operations during the first phases of the lockdown in Metro Manila.
Through a food supply chain campaign dubbed Bayanihan Musikahan Coalition, more than 5,000 food parcels consisting of rice, vegetables, and dried fish procured from coops in Luzon, were distributed to marginalized urban communities.
Back in the Bucas Grande, Edelito Sangco however stressed that while the glass walls of the Soemco building were shattered by strong winds and may need to be replaced, its own soft infrastructure - - database and important documents -- is safe as most of it had been digitalized and stored in data clouds, with multiple back-ups.
Sangco chairs Soemco or Socorro Empowered People’s Cooperative based mainly in the island, considered among hardest hit by the typhoon.
Five of its staff lost their houses and Natcco had sent P288, 000 as grants so they can rebuild as soon as possible.
For other Soemco members, the board had declared a moratorium on loan repayments and opened a window for emergency housing loans.
In an interview a month prior to Odette's onslaught, Okinlay-Paraguya had said that digitalization had softened the impact of the pandemic.
"Digitalization enabled us to store vast amounts of documents, databases, and spreadsheets in a remote site so that these are safeguarded against disasters such as fires, earthquakes and typhoons," she said.
But going digital began almost two decades ago in the early 2000s and only refined in the last five years.
"Having data in the cloud also make it possible for it to be accessible to more people, making transactions transparent and just at the tip of our fingers wherever we are," she added.
She cited the real-time tracking of the money trail in the Kaya system, Natcco's newly upgraded e-payment, remittance and debit platform system.
" You can see when and where the money is coming from and going to, which platforms, and how much, every minute as the spreadsheet automatically updates itself," she said.
This capability allows for forecasting trends.
"Before the pandemic, the automated virtual info board and spreadsheet did not exist yet, the data is available only on a physical board, manually updated every morning. We cannot know the fund flow until the next day, " she recalled.
It is also possible then that Soemco and its board of directors can track the fund coming in daily using an app or specialized software and use the information in planning for the relief operations.
Through social media, benefactors and donors alike can also be informed on the nitty-gritty of the relief operations.
While cybersecurity is a worry, she believes there are enough safeguards in the system to ward off cybercrimes.
It has also been cost-effective. "Holding a general assembly or even a national training, or any large gathering for that matter, used to cost the institution millions of pesos.
"We have to spend for travel, flying people into a venue like Manila. Book a hotel for room and board, and pay for travel per diems. But now a recent huge online meeting of more than 200 persons only cost us around a hundred thousand (pesos). Even as we paid honoraria, communication funds, the online platform services and technical support, " she added.
Primary coops like Soemco can already hold prerequisite online pre-membership seminars for applicants while Natcco itself had held virtual trainings and forums on climate action and mental health.
Besides, Okinlay-Paraguya said, remote work-from-home arrangements during the pandemic had made her discover the “fantabulous” changing panorama of the mountain ranges fronting the porch of her house where she had set up a long table as her home office. Each work day, under an overhanging pole on which bundles of aromatic herbs were tied, she taps on her laptop and android phones.
"Look at those clouds!" she exclaimed.
She pointed out at a bank of swiftly moving clouds gathering speed as it traverses Mt. Pantaron Range to Mt. Tago to Mt. Kitanglad in a matter of seconds, like a stampede of white horses.
"This is something I cannot see from my office window nor from my condominium in Quezon City," she said.
On any good day without a typhoon, with soft monsoon winds coming in from the reefs, Sangco must have something wonderful to say, too, of the view from Hillsbrook Farm, his organic farm on Bucas Grande. But with relief operations taking much room in his mind right now, we may have to wait a little longer to hear about it from him. (BukidnonNews.Net)