Lusaka, November 21, 2019
On November 20 2019, the president of the republic of Zambia launched the 2019/20 farming season with the Ministry of Agriculture. This was following preparations for its flagship programme, the Farmer Input Support Programme that began in early June. The launch came a week after the start of the heavily anticipated rains.
The Ministry of Agriculture through the FISP supports a million farmers with agriculture inputs and this programme is implemented in two ways – through the Direct Input Supply (DIS) a form of traditional FISP and the E-voucher. Over the last couple of months CUTS has been advocating for the FISP to be implemented 100% percent through the e-voucher because of the various advantages it has over the DIS. Specifically, the e-voucher is less costly, crowds in the private sector while creating jobs and allows farmers to diversify inputs especially in light of the threat of climate change. It is also better for the Treasury, the economy and, most importantly, farmers. In a survey conducted this year in July by CUTS, 75% of farmers that had used e-voucher users believed that the e-voucher programme was the best way of delivery.
This year the e-voucher is being implemented in the south-west of the country, with all of the Southern and Western Provinces under the programme. These are drought-afflicted areas, where incomes are low and food insecurity is high. As delayed inputs will reduce the productivity of the harvest, particularly as a dry spell is forecast in February, it is imperative that preparations are timely in order to lift the population from the effects of last year’s drought. CUTS set out to understand how the programme has been implemented by visiting five districts, in the last week of October namely: Chongwe, Kafue, Chirundu, Choma and Kalomo, and comparing preparedness for the farming season between the DIS districts and the e-voucher districts. Overall, our preliminary findings indicated that the implementation of the e-voucher, despite its various benefits, has however faced numerous challenges as compared to the implementation of the DIS.
According to our findings, FISP preparations for the farming season on governments end are progressing well with around 80 percent of farmers on average having already made their deposits. In DIS districts such as Kafue, inputs had been delivered to the assigned warehouses and were ready for redeeming, which suggests farmers were able to plant as the season began. However, in e-voucher districts farmers were still waiting for the ZMW1700 to be deposited to their accounts by the government before they begin to redeem inputs for the farming season – this being one of the main concerns with the e-voucher programme. There is no indication at present as to when the money from the government will be deposited into the farmer accounts. Government’s liquidity position has continued to undermine the implementation of the e-voucher.
Findings on the ground showed how late release of funds have adversely affected various agro-dealerships. Agro-dealers are currently struggling under the burden of arrears from the previous season, which is further hindering preparations. Agro dealers are still owed an estimated K300 million with many agro- dealerships spoken to during CUTS’ FISP monitoring exercise expressing a lack of knowledge on when government would pay off the current arrears. In contrast to the DIS storehouses that have already received inputs and are ready for distribution, many agro-dealerships were worryingly sparse: with such limited stocks, farmers may face limited choice, reducing the amount of inputs available under the K2000 voucher, hindering diversification and creating delays in receiving their inputs, reducing their yields.
In light of the launch of the farming season, it is important to note that the preparations under the DIS are progressing well but, at the time of monitoring, the e-voucher is behind because farmers are yet to receive governments contribution. Considering the e-voucher’s contribution to job creation, government savings and agriculture diversity, as well as the high stakes created by last year’s drought in the south-west of the country, government needs to clear agro-dealer arrears and begin to make deposits into e-voucher farmer accounts to allow them to begin redeeming. This would see the agriculture sector begin to harness the benefits of the programme.
Kindly quote our Programmes Officer Mr Ishmael Zulu
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