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Mzimba South Civil Society Organisations Network (Mzisonet) says Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) met a lot of challenges in the 2016/2017 growing season and this will contribute to poor crop production in some households in the district.
The network outlined the challenges recently during an interface meeting which was part of a project by Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) with funding from Oxfam.

Making the presentation of FISP tracking in Mzimba South, Mzisonet vice chairperson, Joshua Hara, said there is need for various stakeholders to review the programme so that it fully benefits the targeted beneficiaries.
Hara said: “The programme’s progress was not good this year as it met a lot of challenges. The tracking exercise which we carried out with financial support from Oxfam through Cisanet has revealed that long distances to markets made some farmers fail to buy fertiliser because travelling such distances attracted extra costs for them. For instance, people could pay matola all the way from Bulala to Mzimba boma which is 60 kilometres and worth K4, 000 plus K500 per bag as a transporting fee. If that was not enough, not all could access the fertiliser on the same day, prompting them to seek accommodation at the boma.”

Other challenges include late delivery of seeds in areas where crops such as maize mature early. According to the report, this will lead to poor yields or no production at all in the affected villages. Furthermore, higher prices forced some farmers to sell their coupons. This is similar to what Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) also found when it tracked FISP in some parts of the country.

Mzisonet report on the findings of the tracking exercise also faulted the selection system of beneficiaries in the programme. “The selection is done by the machine at central level, a system that is meant to curb corruption at grass root as the selection was used to be done by traditional leaders previously. But the system seems to have done the programme more harm than it was the case in the past. For instance, the system repeatedly selects the same beneficiaries every year leaving others with no chance to benefit,” read the report.
Mzisonet recommended that there should be an increase in selling points in different areas so that beneficiaries should not travel long distances to buy the farm inputs.
Cisanet director of programmes Alfred Kambwiri said there is need for increased accountability and transparency among stakeholders for the smooth running of the programme.
Kambwiri said: “The 2016/17 FISP has had more involvement of the private sector than any other year since its inception. The greater role of the private sector was meant to increase the efficiency of the programme while reducing the transaction costs of the programme. However, since the private sector are profit oriented, there is need for increased accountability and transparency among stakeholders including farmers at community level in order to ensure mutual trust, otherwise farmers feel cheated in some circumstances. Stakeholders at district level must play a monitoring role to safeguard farmer interests in the programme.”
Mzimba South District Agriculture Development Officer (Dado), Palichi Munyenyembe, said his office will look at the challenges and ensure that the programme should run smoothly in the next growing season.
FISP is facing challenges not only in Mzimba but also at national level. Recently, Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID) said it will stop supporting the programme from 2017 depriving the programme about £700 000 (about K630 million). DfID has been a key partner of the Malawi Government in the programme since its inception in 2005.

The Malawi government also reduced the number of beneficiaries for FISP from 1.5 million to 900,000 in the 2016/17 agricultural season following a slash of K17 billion allocation to the programme in the 2016/17 budget by the Ministry of Finance.