Over 600,000 off farm inputs list
The government has reduced the number of beneficiaries of Affordable Input Programme (AIP) by 603,128 smallholder farming households, a development senior officials have attributed to database cleaning.
Initially, the AIP was designed to target 4,279,100 registered farming households, but Agriculture Minister Lobin Lowe disclosed yesterday, at a press briefing in Lilongwe, that the number of beneficiaries had declined to 3,675,972.
Lowe, who was flanked by Information Minister Gospel Kazako and Civic Education Minister Timothy Mtambo, expressed optimism that the programme would be fast-tracked in the coming weeks as the government had ironed out some of the challenges encountered.
“The reasons for the reduction include deaths, duplications and farming households which cannot be traced. The programme is therefore covering all these 3,675,972 smallholder farming households— which include the less privileged like the elderly, orphans and child headed households— in the country.
“I would therefore like to commend the system since it has assisted us in identifying and eliminating ghost farmers, who were not the intended beneficiaries, from the system,” Lowe said.
He added that that government was disheartened to learn that some unscrupulous individuals were buying National IDs from farmers for unknown reasons.
Lowe said the government had names of unscrupulous individuals involved in the malpractice, adding that this was against the objective of the AIP programme.
“I, would, therefore, like to remind and warn these individuals that it is against the law for one to buy National ID cards from farmers. I would, therefore, like to ask these individuals to stop this malpractice; otherwise, they will be apprehended,” Lowe said.
The minister also said about 7 percent of beneficiaries had, so far, redeemed subsidised fertiliser under the Affordable Input Programme (AIP).
Lowe said his Ministry and the Ministry of Information had been working together to address the problem of network interruptions that some AIP beneficiaries have been facing.
“As of November 11 2020, about 14,515 metric tonnes (MT, representing 7 percent) of NPK out of 213,800MT was bought. Again, 13,388 MT (6 percent) of Urea out of 213,800MT was also bought by farmers. Highest sales were experienced in Zomba followed by Phalombe and Blantyre.
“As at November 11 2020, a total of 251,020 farmers representing 7 percent of targeted beneficiaries had fully redeemed their fertilisers while 226,887 representing 6 percent had collected their seed allocation. However, most collection of seed had been on maize (hybrid and OPV).This far, we have no redemption of seed for rice and sorghum. Farmers will therefore be sensitised [to that] so that they can start redeeming seeds for rice and sorghum for diversification purposes,” Lowe said.
On his part, Kazako said network glitches faced in the first days of the programme had been addressed.
He urged suppliers of the inputs to migrate to high-tech phones to reduce connectivity challenges.
Kazako said traders that fail to migrate to high-tech phones risk being withdrawn from the list of suppliers next year.
On his part, Mtambo said the success of AIP rested in the hands of Malawians.
Mtambo warned against spreading false news on AIP on the social media, saying this had the potential to frustrate smallholder farmers.
The government has, meanwhile, come up with a toll-free line 3013 through which citizens could report any malpractices involving AIP.