Govt races to reach AIP target

Govt races to reach AIP target

Ten days into the implementation of the 2023/24 Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP), glitches bordering on selection of beneficiaries, availability of inputs, transport and access have cropped up again.

Speaking in separate interviews, agriculture officials from Chitipa, Karonga, Likoma, Kasungu and Phalombe districts acknowledged some AIP problems, including delays of the inputs to reach their areas.

Chitipa district director of agriculture, environment and natural resources Lumbani Msiska in an interview yesterday said they were yet to start sales because the phones for farmers to redeem inputs are yet to arrive.

This is despite the district receiving AIP fertiliser at Kameme, Nthalire and Misuku areas.

He said: “I can confirm that we have started receiving AIP fertiliser. We have received 10 metric tonnes [MT] of Urea and 6MT of NPK at Nthalire, while at Kameme  we have received about 15MT more trucks are coming to Chitipa today [Wednesday].

Kawale (in green) speaks during AIP
launch in Neno

“However, we have delayed in terms of selling the inputs because the phones have not yet arrived. But we have been assured that they will be in Chitipa today [Wednesday].”

Msiska said the Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM) is providing the phones.

“The same day they [the phones] come, we will start the sales,” he said.

His counterpart in Karonga, Rita Makwakwa, said they were yet to start receiving inputs. At least 14 870 households are expected to benefit in the district.

She said: “I had actually contacted the SFFRFM to find out when we should expect the inputs and I have been assured that they will be arriving any day this week.”

In Likoma, district commissioner Abubakar Nkhoma said the inputs were yet to arrive. He said they expect 265 farmers to benefit.

“Normally the inputs come through MV Ilala. We expect 13.3 MT of fertiliser and 1.3MT of seeds,” he said.

In Kasungu Agricultural Development Division, which covers Kasungu, Dowa, Mchinji and Ntchisi districts, programme manager Yusuf Shaibu said distribution of AIP inputs and data uploading has begun in Kasungu only.

He said: “After the President launched AIP, we have had some meetings with district councils and community members so that they know the list and names of beneficiaries.

“Uploading of the beneficiary data was concluded yesterday [Tuesday] by the AIP coordination unit. So, the rest of the districts should start selling by Friday.”

Phalombe DC Douglas Moffat said the exercise was expected to start yesterday [Wednesday, with about 24 000 households expected to benefit.

“I was told that by Monday the inputs should be in the shops. The registers are in and on Monday, we deployed staff to various centres to confirm those people who have been identified,” he said.

But Minister of Agriculture Sam Kawale yesterday played down the challenges, saying the programme is on track as government has already delivered about 25 000 MT of fertiliser to 22 000 beneficiaries across the country.

He challenged that every beneficiary will have redeemed the inputs by the end of 40 days.

When President Lazarus Chakwera launched the programme on October 20 2023, government set a target of reaching all 1.49 million beneficiaries within 40 days.

Kawale said the quantity of fertiliser stock stands at 108 035MT, meaning from the required 149 025 MT, there is a deficit of 40 990MT.

In an AIP update his ministry released yesterday, he said selection of beneficiaries has been completed in 29 agricultural districts remaining with four districts, namely Lilongwe West, Lilongwe East, Chikwawa, and Blantyre.

Reads the update in part: “The redemption system is up and running with the only improvement of including the GSM platform. We have not faced serious problems apart from minor upgrades the first days of sales.”

SFFRFM chief executive officer Richard Chikunkhuzeni said they expect the gadgets/phones to reach all selling points by Friday this week.

He said: “The distribution is in progress and by Friday, all the 921 gadgets will have been distributed. They were procured in good time, but delayed because they had to be configured.

This farming season, government allocated K109.8 billion towards the AIP, of which K102 billion is earmarked for fertiliser purchases, K6.5 billion for seed, K585 million for goats and K67 million for operations.

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