Difficult to maintain AIP beneficiaries list, Minister tells CDEDI

The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) says Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe has told the organization that the initial beneficiaries’ list of the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) can only be maintained if Treasury provides additional funding.

CDEDI executive director Sylvester Namiwa has said this in a statement released yesterday following a Lowe at the ministry’s headquarters in Lilongwe on Thursday, September 2

The Ministry announced in July that the number AIP beneficiaries would be reduced from 3.8 million farmers to 2.7 million farmers. This year the programme has been allocated K142 billion

But in August, President Chakwera maintained that no farmer would be removed from the programme. He suggested that farmers would pay more than the MK4, 500 they paid last year per 50kg bag.

Namiwa (L) and Lowe during the meeting

CDEDI this week engaged Lowe to explain to Malawians some inconsistencies in the policy direction on AIP between himself as the Minister of Agriculture, and his boss -the President.

Lowe told the organization during the meeting that the scaling down of beneficiaries was necessitated by the resource envelope for the programme in the 2021/2022 growing season, and that it was a routine exercise which the ministry conducts prior to the growing season.

He added that the list of beneficiaries had to be reworked after it was noted that it included people whom he described as ‘undeserving beneficiaries’ such as some officials from his own ministry and other civil servants, whom he said had now been removed from the database;

“Given the allocated resources, the minister has lamented that it is not possible to maintain the initial beneficiaries’ list, unless Cabinet pushes Treasury to either make available additional resources, or approve the increase of the contributions made by the beneficiaries from the current MK4, 500 per 50kg bag of fertilizer to any reasonable amount, or look for cheaper fertilizer elsewhere,” CDEDI said in a statement.

Namiwa, based on the discussions with the Minister, has since faulted President Chakwera for his decision to override the ministry of Agriculture on the matter.

He said the president wants to be seen to be politically-correct even though the Ministry responding to the prevailing situation on the ground.

“It is everyone’s guess as to the uncertainty that faces this year’s AIP; more so given that options available to meet the President’s political wish are a tall order.

“Therefore, CDEDI is advising the President to accept the harsh reality on the ground and act above politics,” said Namiwa.

He further noted that the AIP has become a huge mountain to climb for the Tonse Alliance administration as it has proved to be a very costly and unsustainable exercise.

Namiwa then urged government to start saving money from the AIP initiative by slowly scaling down the number of beneficiaries and investing such savings in local production of fertilizer as a meaningful way of cutting down both on government expenditure, as well as on the sky-rocketing prices of fertilizer.