THE Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) must move away from the Government and be spearheaded by the private sector if the agriculture sector is to be the mainstay of the economy, says National Union for Small-Scale Farmers of Zambia (NUSFAZ) director General Frank Kayula.
Dr Kayula observed that the FISP in its current form would not in anyway help in diversifying the country’s economy.
He said the programme should be left to the private sector so that it operated independently if the country was to yield results and diversify the economy through the agriculture sector.
Dr Kayula said FISP could not benefit the intended farmers, saying even the introduction of Electronic Voucher system for the 2015/2016 marketing season under the Fertilizer Input Support Programme (FISP) had challenges.
“FISP must be restructured and we cannot run away from this because agriculture has remained a mainstay to the country’s economy without any restructuring. We will go nowhere and even our intentions to diversify the economy will not work,” he said.
And contrary to the FISP guideline No 6.1.2, there were a number of farmers who irregularly obtained loaded E-voucher cards without having registered with any cooperative during the 2015/16 farming season.
According to the Auditor General report, it was during the period under review that about 15 farmers irregularly withdrew K19, 590 from an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) instead of swiping in agro dealer shops, and that such was questionable as to how the e-voucher card with its embedded security features could be used to withdraw cash from ATMs.
The report revealed that management and operational funds of the FISP had weaknesses in internal controls in that funds were misapplied on activities not related to FISP, as some payment vouchers were missing while in certain cases payments were not supported with relevant documents.
And Dr Kayula said the Ministry of Agriculture needed a new policy to drive the Zambian economy to better levels and to spearhead industrialisation of the country.
He noted that despite the Presidential pronouncements that agriculture should be the mainstay of Zambia’s economy, it was sad to note that the Ministry of Agriculture did not even have a current policy to drive the economic agenda for this country.
“We cannot operate in a policy vacuum and expect to move an inch towards developing the nation. We are cognizant of this fact that we have a new Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture. We still have people who have been there for some time who should ensure that the country has the 2nd National Agriculture Policy in place.
We cannot continue to work under the old policy because the environment and the agricultural landscape have changed considerably. We should move forward and ensure President Lungu is supported in trying to promote the agriculture sector,” he said.
He said the engagement of the private sector and promotion of farming as a business should also be highly considered for the country to have a sound economic growth.
He said the country needed a policy that would address the main agenda of driving this nation towards a developed nation.
“The new policy should articulate how the Ministry and farmers will be organised to help the Ministry of Agriculture provide leadership to grow the national economy,” he said.