swaziland; grains; maize; inputs

Heads to roll over delayed farm inputs in Zambia

As the outcry over delayed inputs stretched late into the planting season, Zambian Agriculture Minister Dora Siliya has warned she will dismiss officers found wanting in handling the 2017/’18 Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).

“Make no mistake, those found wanting will be dealt with. This will be the biggest dismissal of people in the Ministry of Agriculture,” Siliya said on Monday.

While said to be frustrated with the performance of Provincial Agriculture Coordinators and and their district counterparts over the handling of FISP and the new e-voucher system, Siliya has scheduled a meeting to evaluate their performance.

“Very soon in March, we will have a meeting where we will invite officers involved in the handling of this year’s distribution of farm inputs,” she said.

This year’s distribution process was chaotic, with systematic failures at the last mile, drawing a huge outcry from farmers. As late as this week, more than 100 000 farmers were still without inputs.

Also read: Some 100 000 Zambian smallholder farmers still waiting for farm inputs

This has fanned concerns among stakeholders, including the Zambia National Farmers Union, that the nation might not have sufficient maize to meet local demand. Last year’s maize production was pegged at 3.6 million tons, an increase of 25%. Long dry spells and fall armyworm have made repeat of the bumper harvest unlikely.

While acknowledging the weaknesses in the e-voucher system, Siliya said the dysfunction in the new system would be rectified before the next planting season. On improving extension services, Siliya said her ministry had been given permission by the Ministry of Finance to hire 500 officers.

Also read: Zambia’s smallholder farmers and the complexities of government support

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