More than 100 000 Zambian smallholder farmers under the government’s Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) are still in limbo. The programme, which was rolled out on a complete electronic voucher (e-voucher) payment system for the first time, targets 1 million farmers.
“I have instructed the permanent secretary to ensure that the remaining 100 000 farmers are paid this week,” said Zambian Agriculture Minister Dora Siliya.
Siliya said releasing funds early would be pivotal in correcting the delays that had marred the distribution in puts during the 2017/’18 farming season.
“I have been engaged with the Minister of Finance and even the President himself has been very clear that the lesson we have learnt is that the money from government must come as early as September to complete distribution of farmer inputs by December,” she said.
Siliya reiterated some banks had exacerbated the situation through their own failures despite the money being released to them by government. “Therefore, we are considering doing away with some of the banks which made farmers suffer by further delays,” she said.
On the upswing, the e-voucher system had resulted into the creation of more than 20 000 jobs related to agricultural dealerships.
She also urged extension officers to intensify field visits in light of crop infestations and drought that had hit most parts of Zambia. “I want to see District Agriculture Coordinators checking what is happening on the ground instead of spending the whole day in the office,” she said.