Moving towards the E-voucher

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Lusaka, May 28, 2019

As we draw towards the current harvesting season, CUTS has been undertaking work to look at the effectiveness of the implementation of the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP). The FISP programme remains one of our country’s most important agricultural subsidy programmes therefore its effective implementation remains at the core of Zambia achieving its developmental objectives.

In undertaking this work CUTS undertook a nationally representative study that found that 58% of farmers that used the e-voucher programme preferred it to the Direct Input Supply (DIS) system. This was confirmed at a review meeting that CUTS held on May 7 2019 where numerous farmers said that they believe the e-voucher to be the future.

There have been numerous accounts of challenges faced in the implementation of the e-voucher including the late payment of agro-dealers and reduced capacity to stock enough inputs to meet demand, poor network connectivity, long distances covered by farmers to the nearest agro-dealers etc. Findings, however, findings have showed that there is widespread acceptance from farmers and that despite these challenges, the e-voucher remains a better policy solution than the traditional FISP. At a recent meeting, farmers emphasised the importance of choice over inputs, as the key benefit of the e-voucher, something that is denied under the DIS. By empowering farmers in this way, they are able to diversify their produce and increase their income. The e-voucher can thus achieve the long-elusive goal of poverty reduction.

To complement our survey of farmers, CUTS also surveyed 50 Members of Parliament to ascertain their views on the e—voucher. Of these 80 percent agreed that the e-voucher programme is the right policy for Zambia but needs to be implemented properly. This shows that there is a broad cross-party recognition that the e-voucher is a better policy than the FISP and that its problems lie with its implementation. When the Members of Parliament were asked “do you support the aim of returning to a 100% e-voucher once implementation issues have been addressed?” over 60 percent of MPs agreed.

The e-voucher programme is also key for economic growth. The full roll out of the programme in the 2018/19 farming season saw the direct creation of around 3000 jobs while even more indirect jobs were created. In order to boost agricultural productivity – in line with the 7NDP – it is important that the sector is private sector let in. The e-voucher programme ensures the crowding in of the private sector, allowing them to take up roles from the government. The participation of the private sector in turn reduces government expenditure against the traditional FISP during a period of fiscal consolidation.

CUTS polling – supported by farmers’ views expressed during the 2018/19 season review and policy research – demonstrate that there is a broad consensus that the e-voucher is the best programme for the country. Farmers appreciate the choice they are provided with, which allows them to increase their incomes, and decision makers across the party spectrum recognise that the programme can deliver poverty reduction, job creation and reduced government expenditure.

By Ishmael Zulu, Consumer Unity and Trust Society (isz@cuts.org)

For further information please contact the Centre Coordinator, Consumer Unity and Trust Society, 298 Ngwerere Road, Roma (lusaka@cuts.org)

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