Zambia has stopped the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP), effectively abandoning the electronic voucher (e-voucher) system claiming it was not yielding results. The decision is also based on compliance with a directive from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
President Edgar Lungu launched the mobile and trucking system in 2015 to provide subsidised seeds and fertilizer to farmers affiliated to the FISP programme, organised in association with private suppliers, in order to curb corruption and promote efficiency.
Mobile technology is used to activate and redeem vouchers, allowing farmers to select the inputs they need.
The Southern African country adopted the e-voucher system following reports of a proven track record in countries including Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.
However, Minister of Finance Felix Mutati confirmed the government's decision to halt the Programme. "The agricultural sector has to be transformed from a way of life for people to a business and in so doing, we are stopping the FISP programme."
The Minister added that the government, via the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), was not getting a return on what he described as "the huge amount of money" invested.
Meanwhile, Dora Siliya, Minister of Agriculture has also told lawmakers that the government was experiencing challenges with FISP and the programme required an overhaul. It is understood that authorities had difficulty in printing and activating cards required by farmers to access inputs.
Many local farmers have been late this year in planting crops as a result of the government's failure to distribute inputs on time owing to financial challenges.
Additionally, discarding the FISP programme is one of the conditions stipulated by the IMF for a US$1.5bn loan required by the government to revamp the country's ailing economy.
According to the IMF, the FISP is not sustainable.
The government has already removed a fuel subsidy as demanded by the IMF whose team is expected in Zambia before the end of this month for further discussions related to the loan.