Technicians agree to boycott Affordable Inputs Programme

Gracian Lungu

President Lazarus Chakwera’s flagship programme, the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP), is facing disruption as agriculture extension workers in the country have refused to update the number of beneficiaries.

The extension workers, through their union Agriculture Technicians Union of Malawi (Atum), Tuesday resolved to boycott the programme because the government has failed to give them personal protective equipment (PPE), means of mobility and field allowances for the exercise.

Atum Secretary General Isaac Kwisongole said they would not allow the government to continue punishing extension workers by exposing them to a harsh environment.


“We were supposed to be paid allowances but this [failure to provide the same] tends to be the tendency to oppress extension workers who are committed to doing the work. We are supposed to receive farm gate allowances and mobility remains a challenge,” Kwisongole said.

The agriculture extension workers are required to come up with 2.7 million beneficiaries from 3.7 million.

Last month, the government— through the Ministry of Agriculture— reduced the number of this year’s K142 billion AIP beneficiaries from 3,788,105 in the 2020- 21 fiscal year to 2,740,893 in the 2021-22 agricultural season.


In a letter to district commissioners, Secretary for Irrigation Sandram Maweru indicated that the decision had been taken following rising prices of inputs such as fertiliser in producing countries.

However Kwisongole said technicians could increase their risk to coronavirus infection if they went to the field without PPE and enabling tools.

“The government should find the procedure for conducting this [beneficiary updating] exercise. Some villages have more than 500 people and it is risky for our members to face those numbers,” he said.

However, Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Gracian Lungu said the union was yet to communicate its position on AIP to ministry officials.

He, nevertheless, admitted that the ministry was yet to provide technicians with PPE.

“We are planning to buy PPE to be distributed to them. We would also like to engage programme managers because some resources were allocated to ADDs (agricultural development divisions). As such, they [ADDs] can use the resources to help the officers” he said.

He also said the procurement of motorcycles was underway, adding that the ministry had procured fuel that would be given to districts for use in AIP implementation.

Since 2018, extension workers have been at loggerheads with their mother ministry over the provision of motorcycles and promotions, among other things.

In the 2020-21 fiscal year, Parliament approved K160 billion for AIP, only to suffer a change of heart during the 2021- 22 financial year, when K142 billion was set aside for the programme.

Under the programme, each beneficiary receives a 50-kilogramme (kg) bag of maize and NPK fertilizer and another of Urea and either five kg of maize seed or seven kg of sorghum and other seeds. Those in Nsanje and Chikwawa districts are on course to getting livestock, effective this year.

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