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AIP redeeming time riles beneficiaries

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Sameer Suleman

Some beneficiaries of the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) have lamented the time it is taking for them to redeem fertiliser in some centres in the country.

One of the farmers, Kondwani Ndalama from Nakondwa in Salima District, said he has been waiting for his turn to redeem the inputs for over a week, to no avail.

“I have abandoned farm work because I want to redeem fertiliser first. However, these have been days full of frustration,” he said.

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Patricia Misoya from Chikwawa Boma said she has lost hope of ever receiving the inputs.

“Rains have started falling but the inputs are nowhere to be seen,” she said.

In Sigerege, Blantyre, a brawl nearly erupted between community leaders and community members when the latter demanded to know about the whereabouts of fertiliser.

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“We know why the people are angry,” said one of the leaders, who opted for anonymity. “Last time, when the government was giving out cash to people as one way of cushioning them from Covid, we registered some people but they are yet to get their Covid money. So, they suspect that we want to cheat them again. The truth is that they did not receive Covid money because council officials never came back to us. We did not touch people’s Covid money,” the leader said.

The situation is not different in Mzimba North, where some intended beneficiaries have been waiting for weeks on end, with the fertiliser nowhere in sight.

Farmers we came across claimed that most depots have no fertiliser, forcing them to flock to common centres of Kafukule and Ekwendeni.

One of the concerned farmers, Maclean Tembo, said some people have reached the extent of spending up to four days at fertiliser depots as they wait for their turn to get the commodity.

Tembo said some people have also reported being robbed in the course of waiting for the soil-enriching commodity.

“People are given specific days to buy the fertiliser but we are surprised to see many people waiting for inputs for days on end,” Tembo said.

Ministry of Agriculture officials asked us to send them a questionnaire, which they were yet to respond to as we went to press.

But, in a separate interview, Chairperson for Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture Sameer Suleman said it is worrying that the ministry is not updating the nation on progress made on AIP sales.

Suleman said this is despite several requests the committee has made to the ministry.

“I personally engaged Ministry of Agriculture officials to share information on progress of AIP sales but, to date, they have not been forthcoming,” Suleman said.

About 2.5 million people are expected to benefit from this year’s AIP.

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