Agriculture Minister Dora Siliya says about 846,000 farmers have so far been captured out of the 1,000,000 targeted farmers on the Electronic Voucher System.

Meanwhile, Siliya says over 55,000 hectors of land has been affected by army worms in Lusaka, Luapula and Eastern Provinces.

At a press briefing at her office, Monday, Siliya said 84 per cent of the farmers had received their inouts.

“As of lunchtime today (yesterday), we have captured 846,000 farmers from our targeted one million farmers and that means that we have had an 84% success rate. So I don’t know what exam you write where when you get 84% then people say you have failed. Our target is one million farmers but we’ve managed to capture (as of lunchtime yesterday) 846,000 farmers whose funds from government have been loaded and we are working with about six banks and two mobile solutions companies. I would like to say here that some of the banks have done very well particularly I must mention Indo Zambia Bank and Zanaco and even though other banks are beginning to catch up like Barclay and others, we still have one bank that is giving us quite a challenge and we just finished a meeting with that particular bank to ensure that we expedite the uploading of these cards,” Siliya said.

Siliya said adding more farmers to the e-voucher system had brought some challenges.

“We did experience a number of challenges as a ministry as a result of rolling the programme from 39 districts to 110 districts and we did expect that we would have some of the challenges. Some of the challenges included; late release of resources from government itself, we only begun releasing funds in late November; we also faced a challenge of late registrations even though the registration of farmers had begun much earlier in July, many people probably didn’t have confidence and when their colleagues begin to redeem their cards in December, suddenly some farmers begun to come along saying they needed to be on the programme. We have also seen that registration has been hampered as a result of some farmers having multiple registration cards. You find one farmer has two registration cards and as a result register the two cards in two different districts,” she explained.

And Siliya said government’s decision to completely move away from the physical distribution of farming inputs had created jobs for Zambians.

“If anybody does not believe the fact that government has completely withdrawn from directly giving inputs, we have created a new private sector. 5,800 agro dealers, each employing a minimum of four people, if you go in the shops of agro dealers today, each one has at least four people employed, meaning that 20,000 jobs have been created just because of this season and there are some people whose livelihoods have been dependent on one agro-dealer opening a shop and employing them and we have noticed that the employment has about four people in our agro-dealer shop. So apart from getting people ICT literate, we can also see that this is creating new jobs and new businesses for the people,” Siliya said.

Meanwhile, Siliya said over 55 thousand hectors of land had been affected by the outbreak army worms.

“For now about 55,000 hectors of land has been affected by fall army worms and we are hoping that we can contain this so that it does quadruple like we saw last year where over 203,000 hectors was affected. All things being equal, we are trying to get a decent harvest in this year’s season. The cholera outbreak also has affected our farmers because first of all, they are the primary producers of the food that we all eat but apart from producing food, they are also business people and so when they grow their vegetables and tomatoes, they expect that they going to find n outlet for sale and we do know that government has taken some very stringent measures to contain cholera in the markets in Lusaka. However, there are still some of our farmers who produce to sale to chain stores and I do know that they too have been affected, so I have discussed and consulted with the Minister of Local Government who has assured us and I would also like to assure our farmers that trading of the farmers to chain stores has not been stopped but only selling in markets,” said Siliya.