Some traditional leaders in the country have joined calls to abolish the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) in favour of a blanket reduction of fertiliser prices.
The Daily Times sought views of 10 traditional authorities (T/As), with eight of them saying the AIP has had minimal impact in Malawi while two backed the programme.
“It is better to abolish the programme and reduce the price of [fertiliser] so that everybody can afford. The programme is not fulfilling its intended purpose and continues benefitting a selected few. It is unfortunate that it continues to be politicised,” T/A Jenala from Phalombe District said.
T/A Malemia from Nsanje District concurred with Jenala, saying the country’s leadership should live up to campaign promises of reducing fertiliser prices for all.
“We were promised, during campaign time, that fertiliser prices would be reduced for all but what is happening is contrary to that as only few people are benefitting from the programme. And, with the increase in fertiliser prices, farmers who are not on the programme will have to fetch more to buy it. So, abolishing AIP will be ideal and ensure that fertiliser is affordable to all,” Malemia said.
However, Sub T/A Kalimanjira of Nkhotakota District backed the programme, saying it had transformed the lives of poor farmers that benefit from it.
“Not everybody can benefit from the programme. We, as traditional leaders who stay with poor people in the villages, know that AIP has helped many farmers in the country. What is needed is to rectify some problems that have marred the programme,” Kalimanjira said.
Farmers Union of Malawi President Frighton Njolomole said much as he was in support of the universal reduction of fertiliser prices, he did not see that happening at the moment.
“I think the government does not have money for that at the moment. It is something that can be done but the question is ‘can we afford it now?’” Njolomole said.
Government spokesperson Gospel Kazako described universal subsidy as a process.
“We will eventually get to where we would like to be. Meanwhile, we are ensuring [that] all the beneficiaries are receiving the benefits in the AIP. The programme is beyond production of food. It is a national security issue.
“Food security is a national issue that deserves all attention, tenacity and creativity. We are, therefore, being careful when moving towards the universal subsidy. We are capable and we will get there at a time [when] all is set through this careful process,” Kazako said.
The country has, in the 2021-22 fiscal year, allocated K142 billion to the programme. About 3.7 million people will benefit from AIP and the government needs an additional K70 billion following the increase in fertiliser prices on the international market.
Speaking some months ago during presentation of the AIP Progress Report in Lilongwe, President Lazarus Chakwera touted the programme, saying: “When it comes to measuring success of this programme, what matters is not opinions of politicians, minister of agriculture, foreigners, president or political parties. What matters is the opinion of farmers,” he said.
Farmers will this year be paying K7,500 to redeem fertiliser in the programme, an increase from K4,495. During campaign time, the Tonse Alliance promised to reduce the price of fertiliser to K4,495 per 50 kilogramme bag.