Zambian smallholder farmers, long plagued by delays in accessing farming inputs, are unlikely to see any change this planting season, an investigation by Africanfarming.com has revealed.
According to the investigation, the roll-out of the revamped and complete electronic (e-voucher) system was beset by a myriad of problems, including lack of payment by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to farmers who sold their grain to the agency during this year’s marketing season. Other problems include the reluctance of agro dealers to operate in areas deemed to be “unprofitable”.
As a result, farmers have not received farming inputs under government’s Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP), three weeks after Agriculture Minister Dora Siliya announced distribution of farmer inputs would start on October 15, 2017.
A source within Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) told Africanfarming.com that the e-voucher system was still being fine-tuned while FISP was waiting for core funding from the Treasury.
“It was only last week Thursday when financial institutions were ready to start receiving deposits of K400 from farmers. The problem is farmers are also struggling to pay the money because FRA has not paid them. And those who have paid have not yet received the K1 700 funding from government,” the source said.
The FRA still owed more than K180 million to farmers after offsetting K115 million last week when the Treasury released the money.
The source said some areas had also not been captured as there was a reluctance by some agro dealers to operate in areas that had a few farmers. Most affected by this was the Western Province, where it was reported farmers there were yet to be captured on the e-voucher system.
“This is huge predicament for farmers as meteorological forecasts indicate normal to above normal rains are expected any time,” the source said.
Also read: Rain causes anxiety among Zambian farmers
Meanwhile, social media was in a frenzy about the delays in accessing farmer inputs with several posts saying this year would not be different from the previous years.