Lusaka, February 06, 2019
On 6 February 2019, the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) International, in collaboration with Oxfam, hosted a stakeholder consultation on the ‘Implementation of the E-Voucher in 2018/9’ at the Taj Pamodzi hotel in Lusaka.
The purpose of the meeting was to review the implementation of the e-voucher programme and discuss the outlook of the programme for 2019. There was representation from the government through Smart Zambia, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock. Some of the other key stakeholders included representatives from the Fertiliser Association, Zambia National Agro Dealers Association, farmers, civil society organisations, media representatives and various players in the agriculture sector.
The meeting was opened by Ms Chenai Mukumba, CUTS Lusaka Centre Coordinator, who spoke to the need to establish a platform where all stakeholders in the agriculture sector could discuss the progress of the implementation of the farmer input support programme in 2018/19. She indicated that the need for stakeholder engagement was the reason why CUTS sought to have this meeting in collaboration with Oxfam. Ms Dailes Judge, Oxfam Country Director, spoke after Ms Mukumba and highlighted the importance of this meeting given the impact of the agriculture sector on Zambia’s economy. She highlighted that evidence indicated that the e-voucher was the better option for Zambia given its benefits and that the successful implementation of the farmer input support programme was important to ensure the growth of the agriculture sector.
The keynote address was delivered by Dr David Phiri, Director Systems Development, Smart Zambia on behalf of the National Coordinator Dr Martine Mtonga. In his address, Dr Phiri highlighted that as at 4 February 2019, a total of 998,791 representing 99.9% of the targeted 1,000,000 beneficiary farmers in both e-voucher and direct input supply districts had successfully deposited their contributions making them eligible to receive government support.
He noted that at 4 February 2019, a total of 406,852 farmers representing 99.6% had collected inputs under the direct input supply modality and that a total of 591, 038 farmers under e-voucher modalities had deposited their contribution. Further, about 548, 665 farmers had redeemed their e-voucher for inputs giving a total amount of ZMW 1,095,669,580.42 in transactions and 93% redemption rate.
Under the direct input supply, he highlighted however there had been some challenges: these included late or failure to deliver correct amounts of inputs especially seeds for diversification packs; and inefficient distribution of inputs especially fertilisers from distribution warehouses. Under the e-voucher FISP modality, he noted that challenges included the following: delayed payments to agro-dealers for inputs supplied to farmers which negatively affected capacity by agro-dealers to restock inputs thereby reducing inputs availability and the delaying further input collection by farmers; the insistence on cash sales by most input suppliers especially fertiliser suppliers which negatively affected the distribution of inputs in most districts as ago-dealers depend on payment to restock; and some agro-dealers redeeming farmers vouchers without releasing inputs or only providing incomplete amounts of the expected inputs hoping to supply remaining inputs once they are paid.
Following Dr Phiri’s keynote address, Mr Auckland Kuteya from IAPRI gave a presentation on the implementation review of E-FISP and DIS during the 2018/2019 farming season. In his presentation, he pointed out that recent experience demonstrates that E-FISP provides clear benefits over traditional FISP, it: crowds in private sector in agro-input distribution; ensures timely delivery and access to inputs; promotes agricultural diversification and; reduces public expenditure. He noted that this season, e-FISP brought clear benefits to farmers but was impacted by delayed implementation and late payment to agro-dealers. He added that Government should progress with e-FISP: there are clear lessons for successful implementation and MoA should start preparing for the 2019/20 season now.
After Mr Kuteya’s presentation, there was a panel discussion that included two representatives from the Zambia National Agro Dealers Association, a representative from the Fertiliser Association of Zambia, two farmers under the E-FISP and DIS systems, Policy Monitoring and Research Centre and a representative from the INSAKA agricultural alliance. In their remarks, all stakeholders showed support for the e-voucher programme noting some of the various positives about the system and highlighting the need to scale it up to 100 percent. The stakeholders acknowledged the role that the e-voucher plays in promoting diversification, eliminating rent-seeking opportunities and allowing for the active participation of the private sector.
Key points raised by actors were that:
- The e-voucher provides better services for farmers than the DIS, when it works. Farmers at the meeting highlighted that the e-voucher empowers farmers to purchase inputs that are most appropriate to their own circumstances. This is particularly important for female farmers as was indicated by a female farmer from Rufunsa who sat on the panel.
- The e-voucher can promote diversification. All stakeholders noted that the reform has encouraged agricultural diversification which is key to boosting productivity in the agricultural sector.
- The e-voucher reduces overall implementation costs of the programme. Indeed, IAPRI and ZNFU calculate that the cost per farmer for the e-voucher is at least 15% less than the traditional subsidy and that the government is able to save on procurement and distribution costs of programme implementation.
- The e-voucher can contribute to job creation and economic growth in the agricultural sector. Agro-dealers at the meeting highlighted the number of jobs that had been created by the e-voucher programme through increasing the agro-dealerships and outlets; however, in areas where the DIS was being implemented, a number of jobs had been lost.
Following the meeting, Ms Chenai Mukumba closed the meeting highlighting the importance of needing to begin preparing for the next farming season now. She highlighted that the Minister of Finance in the 2019 Budget Address indicated that the districts that were under the DIS would be re-introduced on the e-voucher system in 2019 once the challenges had been resolved therefore, given the benefits of the e-voucher, it was important to ensure that the government redouble its efforts in addressing the issues that had impeded its full implementation this farming season.
For more information contact:
Ms Chenai Mukumba, Centre Coordinator, Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0978055293
Mr Ishmael Zulu, Policy Analyst, Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) at email@example.com or +260 97 77979981