Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya says she spends sleepless nights trying to make sure that all farmers receive their inputs in good time for planting.

And Siliya says government is ready to fight army worms because they were detected early enough.

Speaking when she featured on ZNBC’s Chintobentobe programme on Sunday, Siliya said she was suffering with the farmers.

“Where I am here as minister, the way the farmers are suffering, that is how I am also suffering because I don’t even sleep worrying that when the farmers see the rains have started, they are panicking because they want to plant. I know how the farmers are suffering but even us we are not sleeping. Even me, every day, my job is to monitor how each and every district is doing, asking how many farmers went to the bank on a given day, that is my job every day. ‘If there is a problem what shall we do? If the computer is dead, can we work manually?’ Those are the things I deal with because I want the farmers to plant because they are the ones who feed this country and this is their business also,” Siliya said.

“Last week, farmers started receiving inputs so that is a good thing. I know that problems are there but those problems are being solved and genuine farmers know that government has performed better than last year. But we are not saying that everything is going well but we are saying that we are doing better.”

She said although there were still a lot of challenges in the implementation of the e-voucher system, government was performing better this year.

“In 2016, we faced some challenges with the implementation of the e-voucher system but we knew that it would work so this year we decided that we should implement it throughout the country in 110 districts, from 39 districts only in 2016.
The farmers who we gave these cards to are one million farmers. These one million have to put K400 in their accounts and when they do that, as government, we shall put K1,700. I know that problems are there, firstly, in 2016 we delayed as government to put our contributions. But this year, we have already gone beyond half, we have put money which is beyond the half mark so as minister, I know that this year we have performed better that last year,” Siliya said.

“Secondly, I know that out of the eight banks we work with, there are others which did not prepare well and up to now, they have not yet given farmers those cards. But what we have done, we have told the District Agriculture Officer (DACO), and the PS to say that if there is money from government in that bank but the bank is delaying to give farmers their cards, that bank should get that money and pay it directly to the agro dealer so that those farmers, because we already have their numbers in the system and so those farmers can just go and get the inputs and they can get the cards later because we don’t want the farmers to delay to plant.”

And Siliya said government was ready to fight army worms.

“Scientists have told us that these army worms came from Florida in America and they came on an aeroplane with travellers. You know when people are travelling they carry food and all sorts of things. So they were carried to Nigeria and now, the whole of Africa, except those countries where there are desserts, is affected by army worms,” said Siliya.

“The only good thing is that this year, they have not caught us by surprise. Last year they told us that it will take some time for these army worms to be eradicated. So the same thing we did last year with DMMU, ZNS, and the agriculture ministry and others, we have used the same system of preparation because we knew in July that the army worms would break out again. So we are ready and we are just waiting, we are monitoring to see if they will be as widespread as last year or if they will be a few. Experts are telling us that these worms love rains so as the rains intensify, that’s when they breed more and when the maize starts to grow because they want to eat those leaves.”