Zambian president Edgar Lungu has launched the long awaited electronic voucher system under the Farmers Input Supply programme.
The system allows small scale farmers to access farming input (such as seeds, fertilizer) using electronic cards that are loaded with cash amounting to ZKM1,400. Instead of using middlemen to distribute agricultural inputs, the e-voucher system allows farmers to source their inputs directly from seeds producers and suppliers in the country.
Automatic payments are made to agro-dealers upon successful redemption of the e-voucher.
The e-voucher platform uses mobile technology for the activation and redemption of the vouchers. If beneficiaries lose their vouchers, they can use their mobile phones to retrieve them as their phone number is linked electronically to the specific e-voucher card.
Following approval of the system by cabinet and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Services, authorities announced plans earlier this year to launch the mobile and tracking system to distribute subsidised seeds and fertilizer through private suppliers.
The objective is to prevent corruption in the distribution of farming inputs.
The system is being piloted in 13 districts and was officially launched in the Southern Province this week.
At the launch Lungu said the funds required to support the e-voucher system have already been released and because the system facilitates instant transfers to registered agro dealers, farmers will be able purchase inputs immediately.
"I would like to warn agro-dealers not to exploit farmers by overpricing the inputs or sell expired inputs," Lungu said.
The e-voucher system will target 241, 000 small scale farmers in selected districts during the 2015-2016 farming season.
Lungu said the Zambian government intends to roll out the system to more districts in order to cover more beneficiaries in the 2016-2017 farming season and beyond.
Dr. Evelyn Nguleka, president of the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) said the e-voucher system will increase productivity in the agriculture sector.
The Zambian government believes that the programme will be a success because it has worked well in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The Minister of Agriculture Given Lubinda said the government intends to increase its investment in the e-voucher system to ensure that farmers are not disadvantaged by price increases on inputs.