By Trouble Ziba
Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has set October 8, 2018 as the day for the official launch of this year’s distribution exercise of Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP) coupons in Mangochi District.
Speaking to the press Friday after receiving four million (4, 000, 000) coupons at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe, the portfolio’s minister, Joseph Mwanamvekha described the development a record achievement.
“This is a record achievement because it is the first time we have received all the coupons at once and earlier than in the previous years,” said Mwanamvekha, adding that the record needs to be maintained.
The minister said government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has set next month (October 8) as the day it will launch the distribution exercise of the coupons in Mangochi District.
In the previous years, including last growing season (2017/18), coupons were arriving in the country in batches with the last lot coming in November or December, according to the minister.
This resulted in delayed distribution of the coupons and application of fertilizer in the maize crop in some parts of the country.
About one million (1,000,000) needy Malawians will benefit from this year’s FISP with an individual receiving four coupons, 2 coupons for two-50Kg bags of fertilizer (NPK and Urea), one coupon for cereals and another for maize seed.
This year’s figure of FISP beneficiaries (one million) reflects an increase by 100,000 from last year’s figure of 900,000 beneficiaries.
However, last year’s season was marred by dry spells and outbreak of Fall Army Worms in most parts of the country including Mangochi where this year’s coupon distribution will be launched.
This resulted into reduced crop yield, especially maize.
Responding to a question on how government would arrest incidences of corruption during the program implementation, Mwanamvekha said there was already a mechanism in place to that effect.
“We have a free toll number 60606 for people to use if they want to give information on any malpractices concerning the program,” he said while conceding that monitoring such practices is difficult as the act takes place between two or a few people.
The minister, however, added that government would also use community radios to announce names of beneficiaries in different areas of the country to enhance transparency.
For security reasons, he could not disclose where the coupons have been printed but assured that the security features put on them are not easy to copy or reproduce.
K41.5 billion was budgeted for the 2018/19 FISP in the financial year.