Despite repeated assurances by government that administering its Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) on a complete electronic voucher (e-voucher) system would overcome problems that have plagued the delivery of farmer inputs, the massive logistical operation seems to be in disarray.
This, as the end of the planting season fast approaches with increased clamours for farm inputs from the bulk of the 1 million beneficiaries.
Officials at the Ministries of Finance and Agriculture say the distribution of farm inputs was beset by problems with planning, communication, information systems and management.
“There is pressure on the part of government to show it has turned the corner in delivering farm inputs to farmers on time,” said one official who requested anonymity.
At the launch of the planting season, President Edgar Lungu directed officials to speedily deliver inputs to farmers on time.
Zambia National Farmer Union (ZNFU) President Jervis Zimba laid the blame for the delayed farm inputs on the Ministry of Agriculture for not making preparation early enough. “They did not listen to our suggestion of starting preparations early. Now the whole process is in limbo,” Zimba said.
Meanwhile the litany of concerns, ranging from lack of payment by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) and non-availability of inputs, keep growing among farmers.
“We are appealing to government to look into our plight,’ said Nora Mwape, a farmer in Serenje of Central Province. Mwape’s plea was echoed by other farmers who said the delay to access inputs would negatively affect their production.
The Small Scale Farmers Development Agency (SAFADA) warned the ramifications were massive because smallholder farmers form the backbone of maize production.
“The delay is causing anxiety among farmers. It is really disheartening and very difficult to plan for this farming season,” said SAFADA director Boyd Moombwe.
Last week, Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya said K2.2 billion had been released towards payment of farmers for maize supplied and FISP support.