Minister of Agriculture Sam Kawale says government plans to use the successes drawn from the implementation of the National Economic Empowerment Fund (Neef) as exit strategy for the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP).
The minister said this yesterday when he alongside Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Simplex Chithyola Banda and Minister of Information and Digitisation Moses Kunkuyu toured fields of some farmers who accessed Neef loans in Traditional Authority Kabudula in Lilongwe District.
He said most farmers who accessed Neef loans for farming are expected to get bumper yields this growing season.
In this regard, he said beneficiaries of AIP will now be transitioned to access Neef loans so as to start reducing the numbers.
At least 15 000 people benefitted from the K17 billion disbursed farm loans from Neef during the current financial year.
Said Kawale: “Farmers graduating from AIP to Neef will start accessing funding under the Agricultural Commercialisation [Agcom] and eventually be part of the mega farms.
“Once we transition the majority of people from AIP, we want them to be commercial farmers to be guaranteed that we have food at household level while fulfilling the Malawi 2063.”
Commenting on the progress of AIP, the minister said as of January 31 2024, the redemption rate of farm inputs was at 92 percent.
In a separate interview, Neef board member Jacob Mderu said the institution is impressed with the repayment rate of the loans, adding that the trend will see more people reached with the loans.
On his part, Chithyola Banda described the programme as a game changer.
He said government is optimistic that members of Parliament (MPs) will vote for an increased allocation to Neef during the Budget Meeting starting next week.
Said Chithyola Banda: “There is need for sustainable funding to this initiative because in future this will be a game-changer and already it is directly impacting agricultural productivity which is key.”
He said at 70 percent recovery rate, Neef has registered a big jump from previous loan schemes administered by government agencies.
A loan beneficiary, Senior Chief Khongoni, who got K15 million and has cultivated maize, groundnuts and soya on a 70 hectare farm, said the programme has positively transformed her household.