The Indaba Agricultural Policy and Research Institute (IAPRI), a great critic of government’s Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) has endorsed the rolling out of a fully-fledged electronic voucher (e-voucher) system.
The agricultural think-tank says complete implementation will be a much more cost-effective way of providing input subsidies to Zambian farmers and addresses many of the problems associated with the current format.
“What is abundantly clear is that the traditional FISP conspicuously failed to deliver on its mandate of increasing productivity and reducing rural poverty,” IAPRI said in a statement.
Government will spend K2 billion to implement a fully-fledged e-voucher system during this year’s farming season. According to Finance Minister Felix Mutati, a process to procure a technology platform to roll out the programme targeting 1.6 million farmers, is already underway.
IAPRI said after 15 years of running FISP at great cost, crop yields remained low (below 5 tons per hectare) and rural poverty remained stubbornly high at around 78%.
According to the institute, the new system has other significant benefits, besides growing agriculture and lowering rural poverty. This includes providing farmers with the freedom of choosing inputs of their choice.
“The new system gives hope of significant growth of a more diversified agricultural economy and accompanying decline in rural poverty,” IAPRI said.
On resolving delays in e-voucher activation and other teething problems which surfaced during last year’s pilot programme, IAPRI recommends linking the farmer contribution of K400 for automatic activation.
It recommends an effective monitoring system to provide swift trouble shooting ability.
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