Executive, MPs tussle over AIP
By Llywellenie Mpasa:
Some members of Parliament stormed Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM) regional offices in Blantyre yesterday, when they demanded fertiliser for Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) beneficiaries in their constituencies.
Ironically, the Ministry of Agriculture announced on the same day that some bags of fertiliser had been dispatched to Blantyre.
And, in yet another twist, Agriculture Minister Sam Kawale dismissed suggestions that the fertiliser had been dispatched as a result of pressure the lawmakers exerted on the Executive arm of the government.
When we visited SFFRFM offices Tuesday, the legislators told us that they were dissatisfied with the way the government has been implementing the 2022-23 AIP programme.
They faulted the government for messing up the programme.
Machinga East Member of Parliament Ester Jolobala, who spoke on behalf of the lawmakers, said the Executive branch of the government should make sure that fertiliser is distributed in good time so that the country has enough food.
“We are pleading with the Minister of Agriculture to consider us on Urea. If we do not apply Urea this week, the country should forget about harvest and we, as leaders, would have failed our people,” Jolobala said.
Jolobala also accused the government of favouring the Central Region in the 2022-23 AIP implementation season.
However, Kawale said the lawmakers’ action was spurred by “untrue reports” that the government is transporting some fertiliser to the Central Region.
The Agriculture Minister also dismissed the notion that the government is favouring the Central Region, indicating that they have been dispatching fertiliser to all regions of the country.
“SFFRFM was already dispatching bags of fertiliser in the morning but it delayed because of vigils which MPs were conducting. Otherwise, their claims are baseless and unnecessary,” Kawale said.
Agriculturalist Leonard Chimwaza has since called for the overhaul of the whole programme indicating that, in its current form, it does not serve the purpose of shoring up food production in resource constrained households.
He added that the government should work on planning.
“Planning for AIP needs to start about 120 days prior to the day the government wants to start distributing fertiliser,” he said.
“We, as a country, also need to make sure that the percentage of inputs redemption translates to output of the staple grain,” Chimwaza added.
Development partners, economists and agriculturalists have been advising the government to revamp AIP so that it focuses on farming as a commercial venture.
The government has since committed to ending the programme by reducing the rate of beneficiaries by 20 percent every year, according to plans Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe and Reserve Bank Governor Wilson Banda submitted to the International Monetary Fund.