NANCY SIAME, Lusaka
THE Policy Monitoring and Research Centre (PMRC) has urged Government to accelerate the implementation of the electronic voucher system to end delays in delivering ofÂ farming inputs and allow for diversification in the inputs received.
â€œThis electronic voucher system can somehow be a challenge to the farmers due to network connectivity in rural areas. In this regard, Government has to help address this problem,â€ PMRC head of research and analysis Aliness Mumba said at a media breakfast on Thursday.
Ms Mumba also disclosed that a research by PMRC has established that businessmen and commercial farmers are using small-scale farmers to buy farming inputs and reselling them by paying for their cooperative membership and initial farmer input support programme (FISP) contribution.
She has since called on Government to enhance the effectiveness of FISP through monitoring and evaluation as well as supervision during the utilisation of the distributed inputs.
Ms Mumba urged Government to enhance efforts to provide technical support through improved extension services and equip cooperatives with skills to train farmers to improve input utilisation.
She said there is need for Government to monitor agro-dealerâ€™s prices to ensure that farmers in remote areas are not disadvantaged.
On the research finding, Ms Mumba said the research has shown that small-scale farmers are being used by commercial farmers and businessmen to buy farming inputs using FISP and later reselling them at a higher price.
She said the vice is manipulating the FISP programme and not benefitting the intended people.
Ms Mumba observed that literacy levels among farmers has proved to be a challenge hence, most of them have no knowledge of setting up cooperatives.
The research was conducted in eight selected districts in five provinces were farming is more prominent.
She said the research teams leveraged on the presence of Zambia National Farmersâ€™ Union offices to effectively locate farmers and access information.
NANCY SIAME, Lusaka