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Affordable Inputs Programme hurdles from the horses’ mouth

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Erratic supply of fertiliser remains a key challenge in this year’s Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) implementation, The Daily Times spot-checks have revealed.

Through a monitoring tour of AIP implementation centres, which Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (CSAT) organised, we discovered that a handful selling points had both NPK and Urea fertilisers and seeds as the growing season starts.

For instance, Mwamadi Unit Market in Mulanje District has, as of Thursday, had no fertiliser for close to two weeks.

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Gertrude Mussa, acting Mwamadi Unit Market Officer, said the unit had received 1,420 bags if fertiliser since the opening of the season.

She said another problem was that, despite some people’s names appearing on this year’s list of AIP beneficiaries, it appeared that the government did not load money in their identity cards, making them invalid entries.

In other cases, those who are not on this year’s list are discovering that their IDs are loaded with government money.

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Mulanje Boma Admarc only had Urea fertiliser although what is needed at this stage is NPK.

Ella Nthenda Maneka, Assistant Agriculture Extension Development Coordinator, said the farmers buying Urea are not necessarily those who indicated that they would buy NPK, adding that they are calling farmers by village to reduce cases of congestion.

“So, we have villages who bought NPK buying Urea so that, at least, everyone should have something. This is a problem because farmers will end up just using one type of fertiliser. We are expecting to serve 180 villages but, so far, only 24 villages have bought the inputs. At the rate we are going, we may go up to February [next year],” she said.

Mirida Gudani, who we found at the market, said she was worried that although she came early morning, there was little chance she could buy the inputs, adding that, even if she bought them on that day, she would still have to go back for NPK.

“We are just staying here since morning and we are told they only have Urea but can we apply Urea at this stage?” she queried.

She also said she planted recycled seeds because hybrid seeds under AIP were too expensive for her.

SC 403, also known as Kanyani, is going at K5,635 per kilogramme (kg) bag; SC 301, also kniown as Kalulu, is going at K4,635 per 5kg pack; SC 529, also known as Mbidzi, is going at K5,135 per 5kg, with SC 627, also known as Mkango, going at K5,635 per same quantity.

Gordon’s concerns were shared by other beneficiaries we talked to in other markets, where we found maize seeds lying in huge quantities.

At Msuluzi Market, which was operating from Liwonde Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) depot in Machinga District we found that there were no seeds at all.

In terms of fertiliser, only bags of NPK were available.

There, we found Esther Buleya, who rushed to Liwonde Depot at around 4am but, by 11am, the queue had not moved an inch.

“They are saying it is because of network problem but, again, there is only one person who is serving all of us. How can that be?” she said.

CSAT organised the tour in response to calls they were receiving on their toll free line 3056.

The organisation’s executive director Willy Kambwandira called on the government to urgently address the problems raised.

“Over and above, we encourage local communities to remain vigilant and report any abuse of AIP. We will be engaging policymakers and the line ministry on these and other issues very soon,” he said.

Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Gracian Lungu said the country had enough fertiliser but the problem could be with those on the ground.

“We advise them to inform regional officers if their stock finishes and, again, you know that we engaged members of Parliament right? We engaged them to register their vehicles to help us transport the inputs to their constituencies and we pay them. Some are doing that [and] there are no such problems in their constituencies,” he said.

He also said more suppliers were going on the ground this week and supply was expected to improve tremendously.

On network challenges, Lungu said the problem had mainly to do with Admarc selling-points where, in most cases, people are using inferior phones.

Lungu further said, in cases where some beneficiaries being declared invalid, the reason is that they are going to buy inputs at selling points located in wrong extension planning areas.

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