Zambian President Edgar Lungu, incensed with the slow pace of farmer input delivery, has ordered the Ministers of Finance and Agriculture to immediately double efforts.
This, as the latest evidence shows less than 4 000 of the 1 million smallholder farmer beneficiaries have already paid K400, but are yet to access inputs through the complete electronic voucher (e-voucher) system of the government-funded Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).
“Due to challenges of getting inputs to farmers on time, the president has ordered me and my counterpart at agriculture to ensure this process moved quickly,” Minister of Finance Felix Mutati said.
Mutati said, although the window of opportunity is short, the system will be improved to ensure farmers get their seed, fertiliser and other inputs on time.
The full migration to the e-voucher payment system was widely touted as a remedy to delays and malpractices which plagued the distribution of FISP. But so far, there is little evidence that anything has changed. Farmers are still waiting for inputs, while malpractices have surfaced in several places.
The Small Scale Farmers Development Agency (SAFADA) at the weekend called for an overhaul of systems to make the administration of FISP more effective and transparent.
“Something really needs to be done at the ministry, and if we continue like this, the agriculture sector will eventually come to a standstill,” said SAFADA’s Boyd Moobwe. Parliamentarians, worried by their constituents’ reaction to delays in getting farmer inputs, have also called for improvements to the system.
“The delays will affect yields and poverty levels would increase if they don’t plant on time,” said Maxas Ng’onga, Member of Parliament for Kaputa constituency in Northern Province.