Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Kondwani Nankhumwa has maintained that the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) remains one of the current administration’s most important pro-poor programmes.
According to Nankhumwa, the programme continues to help poor Malawian households attain food self-sufficiency.
But Civil Society Agricultural Coalition (Cisanet), a network of 70 organisations, has said the programme does not support the current agricultural policy.
Fisp has, in recent times, come under heavy criticism, with other stakeholders saying politicians in power abuse the programme which was rolled out in 2004 by former president Bingu wa Mutharika.
Nankhumwa, however, said in an interview that the government would continue with Fisp in the short and medium term.
“Those that are against the programme [Fisp] argue from the cost side of things; they question the sustainability of Fisp in the long run considering that we are a struggling economy. However, I wish to inform you that it is the administration’s sure vision to rescue as many Malawians as possible out of the poverty trap. Government can only achieve that goal if it invests enough resources in pro-poor programmes such as Fisp,” Nankhumwa said in a written response on Saturday.
He then said, while supporting poor households through the Fisp, the government would also support smallholder farmers through other innovative loan-based fertilizer programs that “integrate the private sector to encourage development of the commercial fertiliser industry”.
“The overall long term goal of the programme will be to encourage increases in quality fertilisers accessed through commercial channels. The Government of Malawi will continue to support farmers through the fertiliser subsid programme and other innovative loan-based fertiliser programs,” he said.
Cisanet Executive Director, Pamela Kuwali, said in an interview later that the programme does not support the current agricultural policy whose focus is commercialisation.
“We appreciate the government’s goal to enhance food sufficiency for vulnerable people through the Fisp. Our recommendation therefore is that the programme must be reformed to target productive farmers or else be delinked from the agriculture budget altogether and be treated it as a social protection programme,” Kuwali said.
Kuwali also said the programme has been associated with a number of challenges that have compromised its effectiveness; hence, the need for robust reforms.
“For this year’s Fisp, our appeal is that timelines must be adhered to and there must be accountability and transparency across the value chain”. She said.
Unveiling the 2019/20 national budget, Finance Minister Joseph Mwanamvekha announced an allocation of K35.5 billion to the programme which would benefit 900,000 people this year from I,000,000 people last year.
Eric Msikiti is a Senior Reporter/News Producer at Times Group. Though relatively young, Eric boasts years of experience in Malawi’s media industry.