Chitipa — Government says it will this growing season roll out a Farm Input Loan Programme (FILP) which will run parallel with Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) to maximize food production at household, community and national levels.
Speaking Saturday at Nthalire in Chitipa District during a political meeting, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Dr. James Kabiya Munthali advised people to prudently utilize the loans.
Munthali said government hatched the idea of input loan programme to create another opportunity for small holder farmers and those who have ventured into farming, but not eligible for FISP to also access fertilizers whose prices are not affordable by most farmers.
Munthali then appealed to prospective beneficiaries of the loan programme to put the inputs to the use they are intended for to ensure the programme meets its set objective.
He emphasized that both programmes are intended to promote food production; as such, he said, it would be unfortunate if the inputs are abused.
The minister said once successfully executed, besides significantly contributing towards enhancement of food security at household level, the programme will go miles in relaxing pressure exerted on the input subsidy programme for which, all small holder farmers claimed eligibility due to low income levels.
"Government realizes that not all needy farmers can be squeezed into input subsidy programme because the programme is highly targeted hence the launch of input loan programme to take care of smallholder farmers who fail to meet FISP eligibility criteria," Munthali said.
The minister then urged those whose clubs will tear through the beneficiary list to see to it that they pay back the loan so that other needy smallholder farmers benefit from the programme.
"The loan is revolving. The success and survival of the loan programme will squarely rest on commitment by loan beneficiaries to pay back in time so that others, too, access the input."
He then asked farmers who are willing to apply for the loan to ensure that their clubs comprise trustworthy members who will not default to settle the loan.
The farm input loan scheme will be administered by Malawi Rural Development Fund (MARDEF)
Chitipa District Loan's Officer for MARDEF, Jason Mlotha said under FILP loan scheme, farmers planning to benefit from the scheme will have to organize themselves into clubs of five to ten members, with certification of district agriculture development office (DADO).
Mlotha said eligible beneficiaries can each apply for four bags of fertilizer which are enough for two hectares of land or more, determined by their capacity and land available hectarage.
"One of key eligibility criteria is that members of the club must demonstrate that they have land and that they will cultivate maize or tobacco," Mlotha said.
Meanwhile, government has committed 100,000 metric tonnes of fertilizers to implement the programme, with 25% of total tonnage to be shared among civil servants who have ventured into farming.
Unlike other beneficiaries of the programme, the civil servants will be asked to provide collateral as additional criteria. Loan payment will be in the form of cash or proceeds from the fields.