Chitipa — A local Non Governmental Organization, (NGO), Foundation for Community Support Services (FOCUS) has warned that small holder farmers in hard to reach areas of Chitipa District will always experience food shortages unless efforts are made to ensure that farmers have easy access to certified and quality farm inputs to maximize crop production.
The warning was made Monday by FOCUS Programme Officer for Chitipa District, Agnes Simwaka during a meeting which drew all agro-dealers operating in Chitipa District.
Simwaka expressed deep concern that most well organized agro-dealers shun disadvantaged areas and prefer to ply their business only at the Boma and a few busy trading centers of the district.
She said this deprives farmers living in hard to reach rural areas the opportunity to access the much needed inputs, such as improved seed varieties and chemical fertilizers.
According to Simwaka, scarcity of inputs in some rural areas of the border district leaves poor farmers with no choice but to dig hard in their pockets to meet transport costs to and from the Boma, to buy farm inputs.
She said, " Small holder farmers who can not afford transport have no single option besides planting re-cycled seeds or settle for fake seeds unscrupulous traders flood in local markets, whose germination rate is too poor, which negatively affects crop production."
She then asked agro-dealers to open satellite or mobile selling points in all isolated areas of the district to relieve small holder farmers.
"Much as we appreciate you are in business and profit oriented, you also shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that your clients have easy access to your commodities to fully maximize their benefit," said Simwaka.
With an annual funding of K33 million, bank-rolled by Self Help Africa, FOCUS is implementing an ambitious five year Farm Enterprise Development for Food and Economic Security (FEDFES) project in two agriculture Extension Planning Areas (EPAs) of Mwamkumbwa and Rufita in the district, with an objective of improving food security and enhancing economic growth of target beneficiary households.
Following stable rains the district is experiencing at the moment, planting and fertilizer application is at the peak in most parts of the district and agro-dealers' shops have suddenly become hot destinations for small holder farmers from areas with no access to inputs, especially improved maize and legume seeds varieties.
Most agro-dealers operating in Chitipa District do not have capacity to brave harsh terrain in some parts of the district, coupled by impassable earth roads, to timely ship inputs to the door steps of small holder farmers.
One local agro-dealer, Happy Kayange, owner of Sapano General Dealer, home of variety of farm inputs, admitted that they deny their clients easy access to their commodities.
"We will try to over stench our resources for the noble cause of improving accessibility of inputs to our clients, small holder farmers, "said Kayange, who operates at blossoming, Rufita Trading Centre, near Chitipa Boma.