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Fisp in a mess

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Logistical hiccups such as late coupon production and distribution and suppliers’ woes experienced during the implementation of the 2015/16 Fisp have resulted in over 600,000 out of the targeted 1.5 million farmers not benefitting from the programme this growing season.

The development means although government allocated K40 billion to the programme this year from K59.7 billion in the 2014/15 season, close to K16 billion, representing 40 percent of the allocated amount, did not reach nearly 40 percent of the intended 1.5 million beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, according to the latest Malawi Vulnerability Assessment (Mvac) report, this is happening at a time the number of food insecure households has increased from 2,833,212 to 2,865,602, representing a 1.1 percent increase.

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“Due to delays, nearly 40 percent of farmers have not received access to subsidised seeds and fertiliser through this year’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp),” reads in part a Food Security Outlook Update by Famine Early Warning System Network (Fewsnet), a leading provider of early warning and analysis on acute food insecurity created in 1985 by the US Agency for International Development (Usaid) and working in more than 35 countries across the globe, including Malawi.

The January outlook report also forewarns about reduced production prospects for the 2015/16 season, observing that due to the hiccups that riddled the programme, farmers without access to Fisp planted recycled seeds with little to no access to fertiliser due to the delay.

Following concerns about mismanagement of funds during the 2014/15 growing season, donors who have in the past been supporting the programme, chickened out of funding the seed component, effectively cutting out about K2.9 billion ($5.2 million) which government had to find on its own.

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Analysts in December last year warned that continued logistical delays in distributing inputs under programme would be a recipe for a poor harvest this season.

As of December 8, 2015, only 45,926 metric tonnes of the subsidised inputs had been delivered for distribution out of the total 150,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser.

Meanwhile, the report also punched holes in the food assistance programme currently being implemented by government in conjunction with the World Food Programme (WFP) targeting 2.8 million food-insecure households.

It further called for an immediate strategy to counter food deficits and food gaps for approximately two months that may result from the anticipated later-than-normal harvest the country is expected to experience.

“Assistance programming in the form of cash and in-kind food transfers will end in February due to funding gaps and a pipeline break.

“Since a later-than-normal harvest is expected in May and a smaller-than-expected green harvest is expected in April, households will face livelihood protection deficits and food gaps for approximately two months, resulting in stressed and crisis acute food insecurity outcomes from March,” it indicates.

The Ministry of Agriculture, according to Secretary Erica Maganga, is yet to release the first-round crop estimates for the 2015/ 16 growing season.

Meanwhile, the latest Mvac report has indicated an increase in the number of people affected by hunger.

An assessment carried out in all the districts in the country except Likoma Island between December 27, 2015 to January 1, 2016 indicates a 1.1 percent increase in the number in food insecure households from 2,833,212 in October to 2,865,602.

The additional affected population is in Blantyre, Dedza, Mangochi and Mzimba.

The additional population, according to the report, will require 588.9 metric tonnes of maize with a cash value of K106 million.

However, Maganga was yet to respond to our inquiry as we went to press on Monday but her line minister Allan Chiyembekeza last week indicated that government is considering changing the Fisp targeting criteria with irrigation farmers as an alternative.

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