Ministry of Agriculture Principal Secretary (PS) Erica Maganga says government will engage Malawi Defence Force (MDF) in distributing Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) resources in hard-to-reach areas.
The PS announced this in Lilongwe on Thursday when she and other officials from her ministry appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture to give an update it on the programme’s progress that is targeting 3.7 million farming households.
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Potential beneficiaries desperate to redeem their farm inputs
She said: “Although the nationwide redemption rate is now at 80 percent, the AIP is still facing hiccups as some contracted suppliers have failed to reach farmers in remote areas.
“The redemption rate is lowest in hard-to-reach areas, particularly in Mangochi and other districts in the Southern Region where it is as low as 30 percent.”
Maganga said this has compelled the ministry to engage the MDF which has vehicles that can ferry inputs to the remote areas.
On his part, the ministry’s spokesperson Gracian Lungu, who was part of the delegation to the meeting, stressed in an interview that MDF will just provide vehicles to ferry the inputs.
He said: “We have faced many challenges in some hard-to-reach areas. As we are talking, farmers are yet to access farm inputs. So, we have engaged MDF to help in providing transport so that we reach farmers in those areas. We are just waiting for a response so that we roll out the programme of moving out supplies.”
MDF spokesperson Major Paul Chiphwanya confirmed in a telephone interview that there are talks between the military and the ministry on the possibility of releasing vehicles to ferry inputs to farmers who are yet to redeem them.
He said: “Yes we are in talks on that and we are always ready to provide our services to people of this country.”
Contractors were given eight weeks as the time frame for delivering farm inputs to farmers. But the government extended the time frame after noting that some farmers had not redeemed inputs at the time of closure three weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the committee has applauded the ministry for distributing inputs to at least 3.5 million beneficiaries.
The committee’s chairperson Sameer Suleman said: “We should thank them that they have done a good job. Some of us did not believe that we could reach this stage. We hhope they are going to improve in the next few weeks.”
On challenges which have been there from the beginning, Suleman suggested that the government should engage the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation as a lead supplier during the next season.