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Lazarus Chakwera demands early Affordable Inputs Programme preparations

IN THE FIELD—Chakwera (left) in Ntcheu

President Lazarus Chakwera has directed Agriculture Minister Lobin Lowe to start preparing for 2022-23 Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) implementation.

Chakwera was speaking at Kuyenda Ground in Ntcheu District after inspecting crops as part of his nationwide crop inspection tour.

The President’s remarks come after the AIP was rocked with myriad challenges last year, including that of suppliers boycotting the programme at the last minute due to price disagreements with Capital Hill.

Chakwera said the government changed its financial year from the traditional July to June to April to March to ensure that the government prepares well for the next growing season.

“Time to start preparations is now and not in September. I don’t want to hear, come September, that some issues have not been addressed. We will be seen to not take into consideration the points raised by Malawians to improve the programme.

“[We need to look at] issues to do with contracts, issues to do with the fertiliser, regarding where we are going to source it and how we are going to distribute it. We also need to start answering questions like how are beneficiaries going to register and how will the IDs [identity cards] work. All this needs to be addressed now,” Chakwera said.

He added that the thievery of taking away people’s IDs in the villages, while masquerading as helpers, has to stop.

“I will defend the farmers in the village and not people working in offices or dobadobas [middlemen and women] who just want to steal from people.

“Some of the chaos around AIP is deliberate because some people profit from a chaotic system,” Chakwera said.

Speaking earlier, Lowe said cumulative crop production would shrink by 10 percent this year as compared to last year.

However, according to Lowe, this year’s projected harvest is 14 percent better than that of 2020.

Lowe has asked journalists to paint a true picture of AIP and not just get the views of a few people.

At the development meeting, Lowe attracted boos when he claimed that Ntcheu received 92 percent of NPK fertiliser and 88 percent of Urea and that its average uptake of AIP fertiliser was 90 percent. According to Lowe, this was better than the rate in other districts.

“I know that some of you are complaining at the back. But listen, I am not saying that all of you received. All of you did not receive. But the group that received it, if we compare it with your friends in Balaka, at least you were better off,” Lowe said.

On his part, Inkosi ya Makosi Gomani V asked Chakwera to fire anyone who attempted to lie to him about the situation in Malawi.

Gomani said Malawians trusted Chakwera and Chilima to rule this country and that Chakwera should endeavour to please all Malawians and not just a small group of people.

According to Gomani, some areas in Ntcheu will not record a good harvest and he, therefore, asked for humanitarian support from the government.

He also asked Chakwera to review the AIP to ensure that each area receives seed for crops that are favourable in that area other than giving maize to the whole country.

The Maseko Ngoni leader also asked the government to intensify irrigation, crop diversification and dietary diversification campaigns.

Gomani also pleaded with Chakwera to fast-track the rollout of mega farms to help address the challenge of rising commodity prices.

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