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FISP must serve its purpose

THE rainy season is upon us and farmers are preparing their fields in readiness for planting.
Government on its part has been distributing inputs under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).
FISP was designed to support vulnerable yet viable peasant farmers.
The idea was to kick-start farmers with inputs so that with time, they graduate and allow others join and move on too.
However, FISP has ended up having thousands of farmers around the country perennially and perpetually dependent on Government.
It has defeated the concept of spawning more farmers countrywide because the same people have been benefitting from FISP.
That is why Government has been losing K355 million annually on subsidising maize bought by Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to enable citizens have access to cheaply-priced mealie-meal.
Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya said in Chipata on Saturday the country cannot continue losing huge sums of money annually when there is an opportunity to turn agriculture into a job and wealth creation sector.
During a post-2017 budget analysis meeting with the business community in Chipata on Saturday, Ms Siliya said Government and farmers are not getting the money.
This is why agriculture is not contributing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Apart from subsidising farming inputs, even the FRA has been purchasing the maize at higher cost and selling it at low cost resulting in Government losing K355 million annually.
The trend of Government and farmers losing money while millers are benefiting from FRA maize should come to an end.
It is time farmers started transforming their trade into a wealth and job creation sector.
While Government has been committed to supplying seed and fertiliser to people in need, the same people have not been fair to themselves by selling the inputs.
Farmers should rise above greed by not selling inputs to people who lure them into doing so because it perpetuates poverty.
The same people who sell inputs look to Government to supply them with relief food.
Agricultural production is subsidised at a high cost to the treasury and farmers should begin to account for it by being productive.
With the meteorological department forecasting good rains, farmers should pay back in kind by producing a bumper harvest and weaning themselves from perennial appeals for relief food.
They should also heed President Lungu’s advice to mechanise their farming.
Off course, peasant farmers may not have the tools commercial farmers possess but there are other means of mechanising such as the use of animal draft power.
Our farmers should for once start taking farming as a business so that Government investment in the sector is redeemed and starts contributing to GDP.
Peasant farmers can no longer be happy to be peasants for the rest of their life-time. They should begin to have higher aspirations and look forward to being commercial farmers in the near future.