Chitipa — Government has admitted that implementation of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) for the past six years has been riddled with serious problems which have to be purged out if the programme is to achieve concrete expected benefits. Karonga Agriculture Development Division (ADD) Programme Manager, Daniel Yona, made the remarks Thursday during a sensitization meeting with Chitipa District FISP Task Force and other stakeholders on the newly introduced electronic voucher (e-Voucher) system. The e-voucher system displaces the paper coupon which was so vulnerable to various forms of abuses. Yona cited the influx of fake coupons on the market and sell of the coupons as some of the problems that have characterized the FISP programme.
Said Yona: "People with clandestine intentions ambushed the programme by flooding the market with bogus coupons which were difficult to tell apart between them and the original ones."
The programme manager, however, said introduction of the E-voucher system in the implementation of FISP is an excellent solution in keeping fake coupons at bay.
The e- voucher, which looks like the air time card, is the brain child of Family Health International (FHI), an organization which advocates for adoption of new agriculture technologies.
FHI Project Coordinator, Patrick Mazick, talked highly of the system, saying it would implementation of FISP easy task.
The e-voucher specialist said the card is safe and secure to the extent that in the event that a beneficiary destroys or loses it, it can be effortlessly recovered from Agro-dealers contracted to supply the farm inputs.
"Apart from the owner of the voucher, no one can use it to purchase inputs unless the voucher custodian gives consent to change ownership, which is not easy," said Mazick.
He said besides checking abuse and theft of coupons, the use of E-voucher simplifies monitoring and reporting of activities because all the information about the programme can easily be extracted from the system.
This is opposed to the paper coupon system which called for the costly and labour-intensive manual counting of the coupons.
Meanwhile, FHI has launched a programme to build the capacity of agriculture staff regarding the use of the new technology to realize the system's positive impact.
Last growing season, government piloted the E-voucher system in six districts of Lilongwe, Mchinji, Blantyre, Mangochi, Rumphi and Mzimba beginning with the seeds. The same districts will use the E voucher system for both fertilizer and seeds next growing season.
In Karonga ADD, the new technology will be piloted at Mpata and Rufita Extension Planning Areas (EPAs) in Karonga and Chitipa Districts respectively. The exercise will also start with seeds.
Except introduction of the E-voucher into the programme, there is no departure from the initial procedures of the FISP implementation.
Chitipa's Director of Planning and Development, Eric Ngozo, welcomed the new technology but expressed the need for adequate capacity for the agriculture front line staff and other key stakeholders on the operation of the E-voucher system to ensure smooth implementation of FISP.