Government has been implored to redesign the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) for it to be more efficient.
Mwapata Institute has made the call, following a research it conducted – which has informed its recommendations on how the programme should be implemented.
The institute this week brought together agriculture experts and policy makers in Lilongwe to discuss its findings.
Mwapata Institute Research Fellow, Christine Nyondo, cited several areas that need to be revisited to make the programme more efficient.
For example, he said the targeting of beneficiaries should be reworked because some of the farmers do not have the farm land or labour and as such, they might need other interventions not fertiliser.
“That can only happen if the government can redefine the objective of the programme, simplify it and make it more explicit so that we don’t try to achieve a lot of issues through one programme,” Nyondo said.
He extended his explanation to soil health because at the moment “we are putting a lot fertiliser into soils in the country but we are not getting much because the issue of soil health has not been addressed”.
He, therefore, encouraged farmers to be applying manure to complement fertiliser.
Member of Parliament for Chikwawa North, who is also member of the Agriculture Committee of Parliament, Owen Chomanika, welcomed the suggestion to redesign the AIP.
He also said for the programme to achieve desired results, it needed to focus on assisting farmers to be food sufficient, not trying to achieve many goals within the same programme such as promoting the private traders.
It was agreed by all that AIP needs to be redesigned.
Other participants included Secretary for Economic Planning and Development, Winford Masanjala, Secretary for Agriculture, Sandram Maweru, Farmers Union of Malawi Frighton Njolomole and the Chairperson of the Fertiliser Association of Malawi, Dimitri Giannaks.
Masanjala acknowledged the proposals that the institute made, indicating that the ministry recognises that AIP was still important.
“We also considered that governments around the world do provide subsidies, and therefore, Malawi is not an exception.
“The issue for Malawi then is; is our subsidy fiscally sustainable? Does it give us value for money? Is it delivered with cost efficiency?” he said.
Masanjala said government was looking at redesigning the programme in a way that it delivers value for money.
The 2021-22 AIP targeted 3.7 million households across the country, but there have been challenges in implementing the programme, making it hard for farmers to access.
By last week, about one million farmers were yet to redeem their two bags of fertiliser although most of them had already planted maize.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.