Clean-up nets 20,000 ghosts

GOVERNMENT has removed 20,000 ghost farmers from the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) in its efforts to rid the system of unscrupulous people who were benefiting from the initiative meant to support peasants.
Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya said in an interview that Government wants to ensure that FISP benefits small-scale farmers to improve productivity in the agriculture sector.
Ms Siliya said most of the people who were benefiting from the programme were not farmers, hence the need for Government to clean up the system for the programme to produce good results.
“As Government, we have to ensure that the Farmer Input Support Programme benefits the intended beneficiaries. This is the only way it can yield good results,” she said.
Ms Siliya also said Government has finished reviewing the FISP and that a report will be tabled before Cabinet once recommendations are made.
She said Government wants to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of FISP to enhance productivity in the agriculture sector.
Ms Siliya said Government has no intentions of phasing out the programme but will continue to make improvements to make it more effective.
She also said Government is working on the technological application problems which farmers encountered in using the e-voucher system during the just-ended farming season.
Ms Siliya said there is need to invest in technologies to monitor the movement of farm inputs from suppliers to farmers through agro-dealers to improve efficiency in the delivery of farm inputs.
Meanwhile, Lusaka Province permanent secretary Charles Sipanji says over 60,000 farmers have so far benefited from the e-voucher system in the province.
Mr Sipanji said farmers in Lusaka faced challenges in activating the e-voucher cards, a development which resulted in delays in accessing farm inputs.
He said this on Tuesday when he opened the 2017 first quarter provincial development co-ordinating committee meeting.
“So far five districts, Chongwe, Chilanga, Kafue, Lusaka and Rufunsa, are on the e-voucher system which seeks to further diversify agriculture away from maize production only. So far, 65,921 out of 69,175 cards have been distributed,” Mr Sipanji said.
He said it is regrettable that the province has also experienced delays in the distribution of inputs under FISP.
“The good news is that it has been forecast that the country is again expected to produce a bumper maize harvest, thanks to the good rains this year,” he said.
Mr Sipanji is also happy that the construction of a fish hatchery and feed plant in Rufunsa district is progressing well with 60 percent of the works completed.
He said Lusaka Province has to date trained 3,524 vulnerable people, mostly women, in non-formal education, and distributed K408,800 to beneficiaries through the village banking concept.
Mr Sipanji also said 6,156 people have so far benefited from the social cash transfer programme in the province.

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