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President irons out e-voucher challenges

JACK ZIMBA & DARLINGTON MWENDABAI, Chipata
PRESIDENT Lungu yesterday concluded his three-day working visit to Eastern Province bubbling with confidence that the distribution of farm inputs will be smooth under the newly-introduced electronic-voucher system.
And Mr Lungu is satisfied that he has left a more united Patriotic Front (PF) in the province after holding talks with officials to iron out the divisions in the party.
The e-voucher system, which is being piloted in selected districts around the country, has been fraught with various challenges leading to delays in farmers accessing farm inputs for this farming season.
President Lungu met agro-dealers and representatives of various banks operating in Chipata at Luangwa House for “open and frank” discussions to try and understand the challenges and find solutions.
He observed that some of the challenges were a result of discord among various stakeholders involved in the process.
Eastern Province agriculture co-ordinator Roy Lumamba told Mr Lungu that Government should decentralise the activation of the electronic cards and start distributing them at least by September.
President Lungu also wanted to know why there was little investment in the agro-processing industry in the province, which is one of the most productive areas in agriculture.
He said he wanted the banks in the province, which is an agricultural hub, to finance agro-processing to maximise benefits from agriculture.
Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) regional manager Virgil Malambo said the banks in the province were not doing enough to help farmers mechanise their farming through provision of loans.
And briefing journalists after the President had concluded his meetings, his special assistant for press and public relations, Amos Chanda, said President Lungu had understood the problems arising from the introduction of the e-voucher system and that he would soon set up committees to make the system work better.
He also said President Lungu was satisfied that the fight against armyworms and stalk borers that had been reported in various parts of the country was being won with the interventions Government had put in place.
Mr Chanda said the President was still confident that Zambia would have a good harvest this season.
And Mr Chanda says President Lungu has taken note of the weather forecast that the country will receive above-normal rainfall in February, and has directed necessary interventions in advance to mitigate any situation that may arise.
And on the closed-door meeting the President held with the council of bishops in the province, Mr Chanda said Mr Lungu asked the religious leaders to work with Government through the Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs.
The religious leaders appealed to President Lungu to continue promoting tolerance and forgiveness within society.

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