Leader of Opposition Kondwani Nankhumwa says the Affordable Input Programme (AIP) is a disaster and the Tonse Alliance administration does not have a plan to resolve the mess.
In a statement released today, Nankhumwa said Malawians across the country have endured a torturous experience to access and buy cheap fertilizers and seeds under the AIP.
“It is not a secret that AIP is currently in a chaotic state, and it is clear that it is not serving the objective for which it was established particularly to afford poor farmers in the rural areas a chance to purchase cheap farm inputs and ensure food security at the household level.
“Almost every day, we are hearing of congestion and long queues at fertilizer sales depots where people, including mothers with babies, are spending nights there under terrible conditions. We are hearing of networks that are not working; we are hearing of corruption where names of people who are not supposed to be beneficiaries have found themselves on the list of beneficiaries,” he said.
According to Nankhumwa, under the AIP, government was expected to make available 370,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer but so far, only 37,000 metric tonnes have been distributed across the country.
He noted that government hired 85 companies to supply fertilizer under the programme but as of 23rd November 2020, only SFFRFM, and 46 private companies had actually distributed or were still distributing their inputs whilst the others had dropped out of circulation.
On the electronic system being used this year, Nankhumwa said when he served as Minister of Agriculture during the Democratic Progressive Party administration a suggestion was made to implement an electronic system of redeeming farm inputs by beneficiaries but the idea was shelved idea after concluding that government and critical stakeholders were ready for an electronic system.
He said the AIP chaos has just vindicated the DPP administration and confirmed that the Tonse Alliance government rushed to implement the electronic system without comprehensively thinking it through.
“At this rate, it is almost impossible to think that the affordable farm inputs can be delivered to the farmers particularly in the rural areas, let alone supplied in time for them to plant and apply fertilizers considering that the rains have already started falling. What is more disheartening is the fact that the government does not seem to have a comprehensive plan to get us out of this mess and rescue the farmers and avert the obvious looming hunger,” said Nankhumwa.
Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe addressed the press on Friday morning in Lilongwe where he claimed that all companies contracted under AIP have started supplying fertilizer.
The minister, however, admitted that the implementation of the program is still facing challenges such as network glitches and congestion in some markets.