Half a million face AIP chop

Half a million face AIP chop

 Alifedina Noah, 48, basks in the sun while munching roasted maize for lunch on a tiny veranda of her mud-brick house.

The house in Kuwula Village, Traditional Authority Kanyenda somehow survived floods which left thousands homeless in Nkhotakota District.

Noah, a single mother of six children, lost almost everything, including a field of crops when the floods hit in February and March this year.

Her expectation is to benefit from the touted Affordable Input Programme (AIP) to boost food security.

“I did not benefit from the programme last year. I hope to be enrolled this time considering my situation,” she explains.

But Noah has no idea that her hopes could be shattered because Nation on Sunday has established plans by the Ministry of Agriculture to trim half a million beneficiaries in the 2024/25 growing season.

Noah having roasted
maize for lunch

According to a highly placed source, the reduction follows low funding in the 2024/25 National Budget.

AIP was allocated K161 billion, up from K109 billion in the outgoing farming season.

It seeks to empower smallholder farmers in food security through subsidised farm inputs.

“Due to the devaluation which has increased commodity prices, resources will only cater for 1 070 000 farmers,” said the source who pleaded for anonymity.

In the previous budget, government targeted 1.5 million farmers, axing one million as part of reforms.

Minister of Agriculture Samuel Kawale could not confirm or deny the planned reforms in response to our questionnaire.

He said the number of beneficiaries will depend on fertiliser prices, just like it has always been every year.

While AIP critics argue that it should be phased out as it puts pressure on public funding, Kawale said it was wrong to assume that the reduction of beneficiaries was because it is draining public resources.

“Commercialisation and mechanisation is our focus as we align everything to Vision 2063,” he said.

If farmers contribution remains at K15 000 per bag, the ministry is scheduled to rake in K32 billion from the targeted 1.07 million farmers.

With a 50 kilogramme fertiliser bag costing about K80 000, government will spend K160 000 to meet the two-bag AIP package per farmer.

Farmers such as these are grappling with low yields

To supply the targeted farmers, government is expected to roughly cough K171.2 billion.

However, it will recoup around K32 billion through the farmers’ contribution.

This effectively puts total government expenditure at about K139.2 billion leaving it with K22 billion from the AIP budget which will go towards seeds and goats, for farmers that don’t have the capacity to grow maize.

Kawale meanwhile said his ministry will continue implementing reforms in various programmes for a commercially driven agriculture sector.

The minister added: “The elderly and those living with disabilities will be placed under the social cash transfer. Those without land will be placed on public works programmes while those with smaller lands will be migrated to Neef Farm input loans. Over K30 billion is there.

“Those with more land and want to use mechanisation will be encouraged to access Agcom funds. Close to K600 billion is there. Those with large pieces of land will be migrated to mega farms. Over K20 billion is there. The emphasis is commercial agriculture which everyone, even smallholder farmers, can participate in.”

But Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) chairperson Herbert Chagona said the trimming of the number of beneficiaries was ill-timed.

“This reduction at a time of heightened challenges for smallholder farmers compounded by adverse weather and economic conditions raises significant concerns.

“It’s important that any beneficiary reduction be coupled with comprehensive measures to protect the most vulnerable farmers,” he said.

Chagona further said the recent declaration of a State of Emergency following El-Nino devastation and the plight of smallholder farmers demands urgent interventions to prevent further hardship.

“Without sufficient safeguards in place, such reductions may exacerbate existing difficulties and deepen rural poverty,” he said.

On subsistence farmers transitioning into commercial agriculture, he warned that it cannot be achieved overnight.

Chagona added: “It requires not only access to Agcom support, but also comprehensive capacity-building initiatives, access to markets, and financial resources.

When Tonse Alliance took over the government in 2020, it listed 3.7 million farmers on AIP in the 2021/22 financial year. It was reduced to 2.5 million in the 2022/23 growing season before trimming it to 1.5 million last year.

The post Half a million face AIP chop first appeared on Nation Online.

The post Half a million face AIP chop appeared first on Nation Online.