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Ministry flags fraud in farmers’ club formulation

Sameer Suleman

Gracian Lungu

The Ministry of Agriculture has confirmed reports that some agriculture officers and local leaders are soliciting money from farmers to be included in farmers’ clubs.

Commentators earlier called for vigilance, saying farmers could be fleeced in the formulation of farmers’ clubs as the government indicated that all agricultural services, including the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP), would be implemented through clubs.

As the farmers’ club registration exercise is in progress, Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Grecian Lungu said the ministry has received reports that some agriculture officers and local leaders are demanding money from farmers who want to be incorporated into the’ clubs.

Lungu asked farmers to report such officers and leaders to the ministry, saying they are handling the issue.

“No farmer should be asked to pay any money to be included in a farmer club because the exercise is free. What we are saying is that all agricultural services including access to markets, extension services and, of course, the AIP will be channeled through farmers’ clubs; so, we are encouraging the farmers to join the clubs,” he said.

Chairperson for the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture Sameer Suleman said the committee is yet to be appraised of the Ministry of Agriculture’s preparations for this year’s AIP and formulation of farmers clubs.

“In fact I told the Principal Secretary of Agriculture that the ministry has to speak; otherwise, farmers will continue being duped in the name of farmers’ clubs. This is also happening in my own constituency and it is not right,” Suleman said.

Agriculture policy expert Tamani Nkhono Mvula doubted the relevance of farmers’ clubs in implementation of AIP, saying the programme is not a loan facility for farmers to be required to repay.

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