Farmers across the country are speaking highly of the government-initiated Affordable Input Programme (AIP), saying most of them have benefitted from it despite some glitches that marred the process in its early stages.
The programme which was concluded on February 19 2021 targeted 3,788,105 beneficiaries and reached out to 3,457,102 representing 91 percent success rate.
Random interviews conducted by Malawi News during the week revealed that most farmers had accessed the inputs and they foresee a bumper harvest, further attributing the success to good rainfall.
Catherine Basiteni, a beneficiary from Kasungu District, described the programme as a success though she said network challenges disturbed many others from redeeming their farm inputs at various depots.
“I like the programme because from how it has started, one can tell that it will certainly get better with time. This year, myself and many others who had the opportunity to buy the subsidised farm inputs will definitely say a different story as compared to the other years. Of course we could say the favourable weather patterns have been an additional element.
“However, the issue of network was a problem because sometimes we could stay a week at the depots to buy the fertiliser. Government should improve on accessibility of the materials by making sure that they have spots in the rural areas for people to buy rather than travelling all the way to town,” she said.
Owen Robert and Davie Chakwera, beneficiaries from Kabola Village in Dedza District, lamented the network problems and distance of various selling points.
“It was good but ofcourse challenges were there because there were instances that we could go buy and the network was not working, many people were able to buy fertilizer but failed to buy maize because probably their systems updated that one had already bought everything at once,” Robert said.
Sub Traditional Authority Chapinduka of Rumphi District hailed the AIP, saying at least 1500 people have benefitted from his area.
He said the number has doubled as compared to previous years, which casts hope for bumper yields this year.
He said while most men in his area are fishermen, the area is synonymous with maize and cassava farming.
“We are very hopeful that we will be food secure this year. The only worry I have is that accessing the input we have to travel long distances. But we have a Admarc depot here which can be used as a fertiliser depot,” he said.
Spokesperson in the Ministry of Agriculture Gracian Lungu said for a maiden implementation, the programme has been a success despite several challenges along the way which the ministry rectified.
“We have heard the challenges that most farmers raised when they tried to access the farm inputs. However, what most of them do not know is that those problems will not be fixed next time, they were already fixed as they were being raised. So it is our promise to them that come next time, they will not face the same challenges.
“Another thing that we have put in place as a measure to improve the quality of the programme is that we intend to start the process earlier so that when the time comes, we should be dealing with problems that will emerge as the programme has already started not being re-active,” he said.
Under the programme, each smallholder farmer was entitled to access a 50 Kilogramme (kg) bag of NPK; a 50 Kg bag of Urea; either 5kg of maize seed or 7 kg of sorghum or 7kg of rice seed, depending on the farmer’s preference.
Under AIP, each farmer was paying K4,495 for each 50kg bag of fertiliser accessed and K2,000 for each pack of cereal seed of choice among maize, sorghum and rice.
Government has spent about K140.2 billion in the programme.
AIP was mooted as a replacement of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) which as implemented by the previous regime.