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‘Create robust farmer register’

THE Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says the creation of a robust farmer register will enable Government and stakeholders to track beneficiaries of the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) to avoid ‘ghost’ farmers.
FAO acting representative to Zambia Mtendere Mphatso said a universal register for farmers will enable Government formulate more informed policies on the implementation of FISP.
Mr Mphatso said Government needs to put in place monitoring strategies that facilitates for FISP beneficiaries to graduate from the programme into entrepreneurial farmers that can buy inputs on a commercial basis.
“Time has come for most farmers that have been benefitting from the programme to be independent so that more new small-scale farmers can access inputs under FISP,” he said.
Mr Mphatso said this when FAO appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chaired by Rufunsa member of Parliament Kenneth Chipungu on Tuesday.
“The issue of increased access by farmers to inputs requires additional review of how a farmer is defined and categorised. This leads to the next issue of creation of a robust farmer register that can inform Government and other stakeholders who the farmers are, where they are, what agricultural practices they are engaging in and their productivity.
“…It is FAO’s considered view that FISP’s first aim be changed to one that focuses on improved productivity of the resource poor small-scale farmer’s. This productivity improvement could still be achieved partially through enhanced access to better inputs,” he said.
Mr Mphatso suggested that FISP should be re-oriented towards improved productivity rather than only focusing on improved access to inputs.
The programme has expanded the scale of fertiliser distribution from 48,000 tonnes in 2002/3 to 214,000 tonnes in the 2015/16 farming season.
Mr Mphatso, however, said despite the outreach and duration of FISP implementation, the poverty levels in the rural areas have remained persistently high at about 80 percent.