The decision by the Zambian government to reduce the number of Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) beneficiaries from 1.6 million to 1 million has caused panic among farmers.
Small-scale farmers are appealing to government to reconsider, saying the move will affect their livelihood.
“Last year we had 16 000 beneficiaries, but surprisingly this year we have just been allocated 5 500 beneficiaries, which is a reduction of 11 000 farmers,” said John Phiri, District Agriculture Coordinator in Mufumbwe District, North-Western Province.
According to Phiri, the reduction caused a lot of anxiety among smallholder producers who rely on FISP.
“The high distress among farmers is disturbing as farming is the major source of income in the area,” he said.
Farmers in other provinces expressed similar sentiments, saying the reduction must be applied in areas where so-called ghost farmers were identified.
Zambian Agriculture Minister Dora Siliya says the reduction is a result of effective targeting of intended beneficiaries of FISP.
According to her, among those affected are salaried employees in both the private and public sector, ghost farmers and others who did not meet the criteria for selection.
Siliya says the screening out of beneficiaries must address the challenges which affected the implementation of the pilot electronic voucher (e-voucher) payment system. It targeted 602 521 smallholder farmers during the 2016/2017 farming season.
Government will this season spend K2 billion to implement a fully-fledged e-voucher payment system.