According to a report prepared by the council’s Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources service committee, Dowa has 181, 848 beneficiaries for Affordable Input Programme [AIP] which represents 32.7 percent increase in the number of beneficiaries compared to the 2019-20 farming season. The report says 131,578 households will benefit from the programme in the 2021-22 farming season which registers a reduction of 27.6 percent from last season saying the decrease is due to increased costs of the inputs as well as reduced budget in this financial year. …’’However, the directive by President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera that all beneficiary numbers should be maintained just as it was last season, Dowa is supposed to be at 181,848 same as last season, in the meantime, the district is waiting for communication from the Principal Secretary for Agriculture on the new modalities,’’…reads the report in part.
The report says last season, though having a good number of input suppliers, the suppliers were very resistant to reach out to rural areas or hard to reach areas prompting farmers to walk long distances to access the inputs in the main trading centres saying this need to be addressed in the coming 2021-22 farming season. The Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources service committee recommended to the full council that all efforts should be made to lobby for Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] or contracts with input suppliers to be signed both at Ministry and District Council so that those that breach the contracts by not reaching out to rural areas can be held accountable by the council.
In his remarks, a representative of Dowa Civil Society Organizations [CSOs] network, George Kaunda, noted with a great concern that in the 2020-21 farming season beneficiaries were buying a bag of 50 Kg fertilizer at K7,500 instead of K4,495, this was after bribing the officers at the selling point ,expressing fears that with the 2021-22 beneficiaries accessing a bag of fertilizer at K7,500, the cost will reach over K10,000, saying this demands government to address all the challenges today and not yesterday.
By Vincent Gunde