Farmers have not received fertiliser yet, their past crop has not been paid.
Fertilizer crisis hits the roof
Government abandoned the procuring of fertilizer for the Farmer Input Support Program(FISP) centrally through third-party companies in favour of the e-voucher system.
Since 2006, government has been awarding fertilizer contracts to companies such as Nyiombo, Neria, Nyimba, Omnia and others, to import the commodity and distribute it to the districts to reach the farmers.
At the insistence of the International Monitoring Fund(IMF), the tenders and procurement of fertilizer centrally were abandoned an e-voucher system was introduced.
But as a safeguard, State House and Ministry of Agriculture earlier in the year gave a Malawian company;Rockliff Trading a fertilizer contract to import and help circumvent the IMF directive on total implementation of the evoucher system and to act as a buffer in case the system failed as it is.
With the e-voucher system traders and companies bring fertilizer supply at their own cost and appoint traders as distributors.
This project was piloted in a few selected provinces and has been rolled out across the country.
Then government funds the farmers directly through a bank card which is redeemed for fertilizer at points of sale with the traders.
However the bank cards remain unfunded todate and the farmers have not obtained the fertilizer deep into farming season.
To stem the rising crisis, this week government has refunded the farmer’s own contribution a K400.00 to each card and but has no money to add the government subsidy of K1,600.00 per farmer.
Both Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Reserve Agency have huge debts arising from the past farming seasons and are struggling to raise funds to fund the e-voucher system.
Ministry of Agriculture has contracted a Malawian firm to secretly import fertilizer and stand in the gap to cover up in the failure of the e-voucher system.
Further the farmers’ woes are compounded as their 2016/2017 harvest remain unpaid and only K400million has been released towards the purchase of the maize.
The Farmer Input Support Program (FISP) Electronic Voucher initiative implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture during the 2015/2016 farming season, has opened a window of opportunity for smallholder farmers to diversify their farming enterprises.
The electronic voucher was designed to widen the choice of inputs for farmers engaged in both crops and livestock rearing.
“Under the conventional FISP, government distributes only seed and fertiliser, but in this case farmers will be buying what they require. Those in livestock can purchase feed while others can get farming implements,”
The FISP eVoucher Programme gives Farmers an opportunity to diversfy into vegetable gardening as an additional source of income to maize farming.
The e-voucher system is plagued by numerous teething problems from lost PIN numbers to poor data collection which gives rise to fraudulent activities.
Further the cards are linked to the NRC numbers and cooperatives appoint one person who transacts on their behalf.
The ‘E-voucher’ programme is an effort by the Zambian Government, which aims to improve the distribution of subsidised inputs to smallholder farmers.
The input subsidy through pre-paid VISA bank cards as opposed to receiving physical inputs centrally procured by Government.
Apart from improving beneficiary targeting and promoting timely access to inputs by increasing private sector participation, the ‘E-voucher’ programme has the potential to accelerate diversification of the smallholder sector by allowing farmers to purchase a wide range of recommended inputs such as veterinary drugs, agricultural equipment, livestock, poultry and fingerlings.
Many farmers are left in the cold as FRA only bought strategic reserves from 500,000 farmers when the agency has been purchasing the crop from 1million-1.5million farmers from the past years.