Farmers in Wallonia are witnessing a major new innovation
Since February 2015 they have been able to submit their land declarations via an integrated web portal, called PAC-on-Web, which was set up by the Department of Agriculture for the Walloon Region, with notable support from Gfi.
These declarations are essential for all farmers, since the data forms the basis for decisions on the allocation of financial support and subsidies by the Walloon Region that are financed by the European Commission.
- Simplify and encourage agricultural land declarations
- Eventually replace the paper declaration with a digital one
- Develop a user friendly digital declaration
- An internet portal offering various services to farmers
- A simplified and user friendly digital report which will in time entirely replace the paper version
The digitalisation of this process has been requested by Europe and has been implemented in the majority of the other Member States, it aims to simplify and automate the encoding and processing of data, eliminate the use of paper, ensure greater proximity between the administration and farmers and speed up the processing of files.
Better communication with farmers
While previously some 14.000 farmers in Wallonia or their representatives (consultants or union representatives) had to submit a bulky paper file comprising hand drawn illustrations of their plots, they now can choose to submit their declarations online. For a while this option will be available at the same time as the paper declaration, but will become obligatory in 2018.
The electronic format provides automatic tools which have many advantages: farmers will be able to prevent errors, omissions or inconsistencies, illustrate their plots and aspects of their land in a precise yet flexible way, check the fulfilment of criteria relation to crop diversification and ecologically significant areas; and obtain guidance in the area of financial support and subsidies.
Prior to its launch in February, the land declaration application was tested by a group of 303 users (comprising farmers, consultants and union representatives). The satisfaction scores were good and the demonstrations were positively received by the agricultural industry and external services.
This project was carried out by the OPW (Organisme Payeur Wallon – to the point of contact between the European Commission and the beneficiaries of agricultural support), with the help of a team of consultants from Gfi, and places particular emphasis on the identification of users and representatives (which is done by using an electronic identity card), on data security and confidentiality, on ergonomics and on the possibility for communication.
As the first declarations were submitted, the system reacted perfectly according to both the expectations of the users and of those of OPW’s business services. The first internal audit has already highlighted the good functionality of the portal.
The electronic land declaration is one of the tools in the new PAC-on-Web portal which offers farmers in Wallonia a whole range of services. In a subsequent phase, new tools may be added, such as a communication space for farmers or the management of investment aid requests.
Design and methodology: a decisive contribution from Gfi
Gfi was involved as a participant in this project, from the analysis phase through to the design of the technical architectures and in the provision of technical and methodological support to the development teams. Moreover, Gfi ensured the consistency of the functional analysis phase and the development phase, while also carrying out a technological survey of the existing architecture.
The portal was constructed using the open source technology Liferay in accordance with the agile methodology SCRUM. SCRUM enables, as part of incremental word, the development of products to be dissected into short and testable intervals that can be adjusted over the course of the project. The experience that Gfi has gained with Liferay was extremely helpful in the creation of the portal.
To this end, the OPW brought together an assorted group comprising internal IT specialists, industry experts and external consultants, such as the ones from Gfi. On account of its experience with this methodology, Gfi was able to guide the teams through the process and supplied one of the SCRUM masters, the equivalent of a project manager. But Gfi’s support did not end there, it also supplied the Java architect who developed the technical architecture.