Finance Minister Felix Mutati has disclosed that the government will this year spend approximately K2 Billion for full implementation of the E-Voucher System under the Farmer Input Support Programme.
Mr. Mutati said once the new system is fully implemented, eligible beneficiaries in the farming community will be the only ones who will receive funds loaded on state financed E-Vouchers.
Addressing the E-Voucher Working Group in Lusaka on Thursday, Mr. Mutati said the government is concerned with resource wastage and the resultant costly transactions experienced over the years in the course of implementing the manual Farmer Input Support Programme.
“In this regard,” stated the Minister to the E-Voucher Working Group, “the government is seeking an integrated ICT driven solution which is expected to facilitate the elimination of resource wastage and instead introduce timely and efficient payment transactions and effective service delivery.”
Government is in the process of carrying-through the reforms related to the Farmer Input Support Programme and the role of the Food Reserve Agency.
Implementation of the FISP in the manual format has facilitated an increase in production by our farmers, however, its design and administration has hindered diversification in agriculture as it has focused more on maize production.
Additionally, the cost structure associated with the distribution of inputs by the government has had attendant inefficiencies.
“It is in this regard that the government will migrate to full implementation of the E-Voucher system,” stated Mr. Mutati.
The multi-sectoral working group on full migration of the Farmer Input Support Programme to the E-Voucher System comprising government ministries and agencies, SMART Zambia, banking and financial services institutions, ICT solution providers, telecommunication companies, the Zambian National Farmers Union, agro-product suppliers, and transporters, on Thursday met to agree on a framework of engagement for the speedy transformation of the current farmer input distribution process into an ICT based E-Voucher System.
The Minister assured the delegates to the meeting that cooperating partners were willing to render financial support once the ICT based E-Voucher programme becomes fully functional across the country.
“The role of the governmentin the E-Voucher System will be streamlined and restricted to oversight and monitoring,” said Mr. Mutati.
Speaking at the same function, Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary Julius Shawa said stakeholders in the crop agriculture sector need to embrace the E-Voucher system in order to ensure that efficiency in servicing farmers and accelerating agriculture development is attained.
AND Zambia National Farmers Union Head of Business Development Coillard Hamusimbi said the full implementation of the E-Voucher system by the government is a welcome move.
Mr. Hamusimbi also said that the E-Voucher initiative by the government is long-over-due but the process of arriving at a solution acceptable to all would be managed better if the different competencies of the stakeholders were harnessed according to their areas of expertise.
This, he said, “is in order to forestall delays that might occur due to protracted debates in arriving at a quick and functional ICT based solution.”
Regarding the Food Reserve Agency, Cabinet has guided that its role must be that of maintaining strategic food reserves, which are currently estimated at 500,000 metric tons.
In the past, FRA would procure beyond what was required for strategic reserves, thus exerting undue pressure on the Treasury for more funds to purchase unbudgeted reserve produce.