Some farmers in Nyimba District of Eastern Province have lamented about not receiving farming inputs despite them being on the electronic voucher system.

In an interview, the farmers lamented that some of them had not received fertilizer.

“There is a shortage of fertilizer! And on the issue of the e-voucher, for Nyimba District, they gave us 12,435 beneficiaries. But out of this number, some farmers are not getting fertilizer, but their names are there in the system. When we reported to the office of the Permanent Secretary, they said all of them are getting. Like for my camp, over 100 people never received their inputs, but their names are in the system,” the farmers, represented by Pandala Lungu, complained.

Lungu, who is also chairman for Mwalela, a multi-purpose farmer group, complained that the Ministry of Agriculture had also been pushing them to advance contributions for next year’s district agriculture show.

“And on field days and mobile courses, they are telling us that, as farmers, we should be contributing monies for organizing district shows and field days. And now, they are asking us to do an advance contribution for next year’s show. We paid in May, this year, and again in September,” he added.

And Lungu complained that farmers win as less as K20 even after they paid the K300 participating fee during agriculture activities in the district.

“These same district agriculture shows are not encouraging us because they give us very frustrating prices! Imagine, where you pay K300 as participation fee for the show, but the winning price is K20 or K50! And now, they are using the FISP (Farmer Input Support Programme) as a weapon that if you don’t pay, then your farmers will not benefit. So, that’s the challenge we have here. And we used to have post-mortem meetings every year in those times when we had FISP, but from the time we migrated to e-voucher, we no longer have post-mortem meetings,” bemoaned Lungu.

Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary Songowayo Zyambo could not comment when contacted by press time.

According to the 2020 national budget announced in September, government had already commenced the distribution of inputs across the country under the direct input supply model targeting 60 per cent of the one million eligible beneficiary farmers.

The balance of 40 per cent of the eligible beneficiary farmers is expected to be covered under the e-voucher system.

Further, government is expected to speed up the construction of telecommunications towers across the country to address connectivity challenges to ensure wider e-voucher coverage.