Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, George Chaponda, has said it is imperative that Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) be redesigned to encourage productivity among small-scale farmers in the country.
Chaponda said that with the advent of climate change, Fisp cannot offer long-term solution to the recurrent food insecurity problem faced by many smallholder famers.
He was speaking yesterday in Lilongwe when he presided over a research dissemination workshop for a collaborative research project on Guiding Investments in Sustainable Agricultural Intensification in Africa (Gisaia II).
“As you may be aware, some parts of this country have not received adequate rainfall such that farmers have not made use of the fertiliser coupons that they got through this programme [Fisp]. This calls for new thinking in our agricultural production and my ministry urgently needs solutions to achieve national and household food security,” Chaponda said.
He said government welcomes any innovative ideas and evidence that will help redesign its programmes to boost agricultural production.
Chaponda said government is considering revisiting the targeting criteria for the programme, redirecting some Fisp funds to other ways of harvesting water and irrigation and involving the private sector in the programme as some of the measures to reorganise Fisp so that it derives economic value for the country.
Fisp has in recent times been a subject to criticism from both development partners and technocrats, some arguing the programme has failed to ensure sustainable household food security and reduce poverty.
Speaking earlier, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) Vice-Chancellor, George Kanyama-Phiri, said, in its current form, Fisp has left farmers to be a perpetually dependent on the programme and it is not fully achieving the desired results.
He said some farmers had remained on Fisp from the time of its inception in 2005, a situation that has impacted the programme’s economic benefit.
“After having quickly scaled up subsidy programmes following positive yet largely inaccurate media attention about Malawi’s input subsidy programme, many African governments are urgently seeking technical guidance in the design of their input promotion programmes as well as guidance to improve the cost-effectiveness of these programmes,” Kanyama- Phiri said.
He said it is high time the country stood up and made Fisp more profitable to farmers so that they could afford fertilisers by themselves without perpetually relying on government every year.
Gisaia II project was designed to contribute to knowledge generation through research and capacity building to improve the incomes and food security status of African farmers and consumers.
The project was led by the Michigan State University’s Food Security Group and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation over a four-year period from January 2013 – December 2016.
It involved 12 other African research and/or public sector organisations from Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi.
In Malawi, the project was endorsed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development was implemented by the Centre for Agricultural Research and Development (Card) at Luanar.
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