Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
THE performance scored by Indo- Zambia Bank (IZB) in the implementation of the e-voucher programme under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) is commendable and a signal that the teething issues that have been witnessed over the last few farming seasons are about to come to an end.
On Sunday, IZB revealed that it achieved an over 90 percent performance in the 2018-2019 Ministry of Agriculture’s FISP with the bank pledging to supplement Government’s desire to ensure food security.
Government engaged several banks, among them IZB, in the implementation of the FISP electronic voucher programme where farmers access inputs using cards.
The Ministry of Agriculture allocated 100,652 beneficiary farmers under the FISP e-voucher programme for the 2018/2019 season in 11 districts.
IZB managing director Maheshkumar Bansal said of the total beneficiaries, 99,180 farmers were under IZB, representing a 98.5 percent achievement of the bank’s allotted farmers.
Mr Bansal said the bank also received over 60,000 deposits from farmers under the Direct Input Supply Conventional System.
“Further deposits were also received by the bank under the Direct Input Supply conventional system for 62,435 farmers in Chitambo, Ngabwe, Serenje, Chipata, Lundazi, Mansa, Samfya, Rufunsa, Kasama, Lunte and Mushindamo districts,” Mr Bansal said.
He said overall, the bank efficiently provided services to 100,652 beneficiary farmers in the allocated 11 districts who accessed their input from agro-dealers using cards from the bank.
The bank has this farming season supported over 160,000 farmers under FISP across the country.
“The bank’s outstanding performance was further aided by the enhanced use of technology following its successful integration on the Government Information Technology platform,” Mr Bansal said.
“Electronic input voucher management and payment to agro-dealers was efficiently undertaken largely on account of the robust systems and measures put in place by the Ministry of Agriculture,” Mr Bansal said.
Copperbelt University lecturer in marketing and entrepreneurship Moffat Chawala said the implementation of the e-voucher system in the 2017 – 2018 farming season was pathetic for it brought misery among the different stakeholders involved.
“The significance of the improvement in implementation by Indo-Zambia Bank during the 2018-2019 farming season signals a number of things to the different stakeholders,” Mr Chawala said.
He said there is need for the bank to partner with Government and other stakeholders in order for this initiative to be successful.
“Other banks must equally embrace partnership with Government by helping supplement its efforts even when it delays to release the funds so that our farmers don’t suffer by receiving their inputs late. Partnering is key for the big picture of ensuring food security and reducing the shackles of poverty among our people,” Mr Chawala said.
He said the effective implementation of the e-voucher system is key to improving productivity in the agriculture sector and diversification of the sector at large. The e-voucher system ensures that farming inputs are timely given to the farmers and other crops besides the traditional crops given to encourage diversification in the sector.
Through the achievement, IZB is building expertise in a diversified portfolio of services away from main products that most banks are providing.
IZB has also earned themselves Government goodwill for possible additional business as government accounts are highly sought after by banks.
For the agriculture sector, IZB’s successful implementation of the e-voucher programme under FISP means that sources of financial solutions for the sector are growing.
While executing their mandate, IZB has obviously appreciated the challenges the sector faces and highlighted the gaps which can be exploited for additional business opportunities
Farmers now know that they have a reliable partner that has proven deliverables.
And just by the structure of ownership, IZB is more amenable to design products that also have social inclinations for small-scale farmers unlike other banks focussed purely on commercial interests.
Economically, it means the foregoing can only benefit the economy as it acts as a strong affirmative initiative.
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.
Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO