The Zambian Minister of Agriculture, Dora Siliya, told lawmakers that the government’s Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) failed to reach its objective of supporting small-scale farmers to become commercially viable. Compounding the situation, she said, was the fact that government was losing huge amounts of money paying ghost farmers.
In a related development the minister announced the release of ZMW300 million to the Food and Reserve Agency (FRA) to expedite all payments to farmers to ensure that they got their inputs in time for this year’s farming season. The rains already started falling over large parts of Zambia.
“FISP has failed, and government has to seriously re-look the programme,” Ms Siliya said in her ministerial statement to parliament on Tuesday afternoon. “This programme has failed because most of the farmers have turned it into a social transfer benefit in stead of being a subsidy to help vulnerable and small-scale farmers graduate into viable commercial farmers,” she noted.
She said some farmers even failed to pay the obligatory administration fee of ZMW400 (USD4) to be a part of the programme and get payment. The minister added that pay-outs to farmers who did not exist resulted in colossal losses and it deprived the farmers who were in real need.
“We have so far identified more than 7000 ghost farmers from a list of beneficiaries that has seen government lose huge sums of money across the country,” Siliya informed parliament.
Government recently rolled-out a ZMW400 million (US$ 40million) FISP e-voucher payment system for the 2016/2017 farming season to support an estimated 1.6 small-scale farmers. But the programme immediately hit several snags and the delivery of farm inputs to many parts of the country were delayed – a situation that caused a lot of concern amongst farmers and traditional leaders as the rains had already started.
Ms Siliya assured parliament that government had already taken steps to iron out the bottlenecks in the system.
“I wish to assure the nation that we are working around the clock to ensure that delivery of inputs and the implementation of the e-voucher system are completed in the shorted possible time.”
On delays by the state grain-buying body, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), to pay farmers who had supplied maize to government, Ms Siliya informed parliament that the ministry of finance had released ZMW300 million (USD30 million) to clear all the outstanding payments.
“The money will go to paying farmers who supplied maize and allow them to concentrate on preparations for the pending farming season,” she said