GOVERNMENT has appealed to small-scale farmers in Eastern Province to embrace the electronic voucher (e-voucher) system it has introduced as it is key in addressing the challenge of ghost farmers especially in the implementation of the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).
The government has also implored farmers to swipe for various inputs aside from ‘maize seed and fertilizer’ as the e-voucher system encourages diversification since it gives them a wide range of inputs to pick from such as day old chicks, fish inputs, sprayers and agri-chemicals among others.
The Provincial Agricultural Coordinator for Eastern Province Roy Lumamba said the e-voucher system is a good arrangement that reduces transportation costs and offers greater benefits to target farmers such as giving them the freedom to decide the kind of inputs they prefer.
He acknowledged however, that the e-voucher system has had a few challenges this year such as some farmers not being able to swipe for inputs but expressed confidence that the system would be improved upon in successive seasons as the 2016/2017 farming season was the first time it was being rolled out in Eastern Province.
“We had a few challenges in the beginning as always is the case when starting a new programme but generally, the e-voucher system is the way to go. The system has shown us that beneficiary selection is good especially in terms of trying to avoid the ghost farmers,” Mr. Lumamba said, “We have only received reports in Katete district where the master list had some people who actually passed on; previously, those inputs would have gone to waste or into other people’s fields.”
He was speaking in an interview with the National Agricultural Information Services (NAIS).
The accessing of inputs using the e-voucher system is currently going on in Chipata, Katete and Petauke, the three districts selected to participate in the e-voucher system.
And according to the latest e-voucher card distribution update issued by the Senior Economist – Market Development Kwibisa Malimba on 31st January, 2017, Chipata district has so far distributed 45, 237 cards to beneficiaries out of the 46, 901 cards received.
On the other hand, Petauke district has distributed 26, 186 cards while Katete has so far distributed 22, 033 cards.
Petauke and Katete districts have received 28, 683 and 25, 634 cards respectively.
And on the six districts implementing the conventional Farmer Input Support Programme, Mr. Malimba stated that the districts had received and distributed all the inputs to beneficiary farmers.
He said the six districts had been allocated 322,600 by 50 Kg bags of D-Compound fertilizer and 295,040 by 50 bags of Urea.
“ As for the seed allocations, the six districts were allocated 146, 165 by 10 Kg bags of maize seed; 12, 720 by 20 Kg bags of groundnut seed, 2, 710 by 5Kg bags sorghum seed and 6, 065 cotton packs,” stated Mr. Malimba.