ZAMBIA:846,000 farmers access e-vouchers

BY midday yesterday about 846,000 out of the targeted one million farmers’ accounts were debited to enable growers access farming inputs using e-voucher cards, representing 84 per cent capture rate under the new system, Agriculture Minister Dora Siliya has announced.

Ms Siliya also said farming fields measuring 55,000 hectares had so far been reportedly invaded by army worms, with Eastern, Luapula and Lusaka provinces being the worst hit but Government was prepared to contain the outbreak to save the 2017/18 farming season crop.

She said Government had by yesterday deposited K187 million with six banks and some mobile money solutions to enable farmers that had met the stipulated K400 access seed and fertiliser under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).

“We have had challenges like late fund disbursement, late farmer registration and cleaning up the system but we want to assure farmers that we are committee to ensure a successful farming season,” Ms Siliya said.

She said this at a Press briefing in Lusaka yesterday where she was flanked by Permanent Secretary Julius Shawa, Smart Zambia Permanent Secretary Martin Mtonga and a number of Government officials.

One unnamed bank was sitting on 90,000 farmers, had delayed attending to growers and the institution was yesterday given an ultimatum to ensure farmers accessed inputs by close of business today.

Ms Siliya said farm input distribution under E-voucher had faced a number of challenges but the Government was working to ensure outstanding issues were resolved.

The minister said 5,800 agro-dealers had been engaged in various parts of the country, representing an increase from 1,002 last year.

Ms Siliya said this ensured that input supply was competitive and closer to farmers while creating jobs and empowering the private sector.

Government was considering making farmer registration an ongoing process to avoid bottlenecks that caused input delay in future.

She further said 55,000 hectare of farm land had been invaded by army worms and Government was encouraging the affected farmers to procurechemicals using e-voucher proceeds.