Farmers in Kaoma district have bemoaned the slow and poor network delaying the redeeming of E- Voucher products for 2017- 2018 farming season.

Speaking on behalf of farmers in Kashamu Camp, The Camp Agriculture Committee (CAC) Chairperson Mr. Martin Mashasha Mundiya bemoaned the lack of network in the area adding that the problem is making it hard for farmers to get messages as they need to walk longer distances just to get network.

Mr. Mundiya said the problem of network has persisted in forcing farmers to leave their busy schedule at the farm in search of network, and after walking longer distances they still find that the message for confirmation of money in the account is not there.

Mr. Mundiya said unlike the older version of Farmer Input Support Program (FISP), the new E-voucher require someone to be where network is. The Chairperson has since appealed to government and all other relevant stakeholder to quicken the process of providing network in places where farmers are. He said the network problem in the Camp and indeed district is a difference between smooth implementation of E-voucher and its failure.

However, Mr. Mundiya also took time to thank government for the Farmers Input Support Program (FISP) Electronic Voucher initiative which has given farmers chance to diversify.

“With the e-voucher, we are free to choose exactly the type of fertilizer and variety of seed to buy, unlike in the past where we had no option but to receive whatever was made available, said Mr. Mundiya.

Speaking to Garden Variety Director Mr. Edson Ngwira an Agro dealer in Kaoma and Nkeyema district said network problem in Kaoma and Nkeyema district is still a big challenge posing a danger on farmers who will be unable to carry out their faming activities due to bad network.

Speaking in a phone interview with National Agricultural Information Service (NAIS), The Agro dealers said of the response for farmers coming to redeem has reduced for reasons not known. However, Mr. Ngwira was quick to mention that poor network in the two districts has slowed the redeeming process as the Point of Sale (POS) machines relay on network.

Furthermore, Mr. Ngwira praised government for the introduction of E-Voucher as it has opened new windows for Agro dealers to sale more items other maize seed and fertilizer. The Agro-Dealer said Farmers Input Support Program (FISP) Electronic Voucher initiative implemented

by the Ministry of Agriculture has opened a window of opportunity for smallholder farmers to diversify their farming enterprises.

Commenting on matters arising from famers on E-Voucher, Assistant Kaoma District Marketing Development Officer (DMDO) Mr. Everisto Mwamba said government is working tirelessly to ensure that mobile network problems in the country is burried.

Mr. Mwamba was quick to mention that there have been a lot of queries from farmers and he assured famers that reports are being sent to Lusaka on a daily basis and famers queries are being worked on.

The ‘E-voucher’ programme is an effort by the Zambian Government, supported by Musika, which aims to improve the distribution of subsidised inputs to smallholder farmers. During the 2015/2016 farming season, 241,000 farmers across the 13 pilot districts in Southern, Lusaka, Central and Copperbelt Provinces received the input subsidy through pre-paid VISA bank cards as opposed to receiving physical inputs centrally procured by Government.

Apart from improving beneficiary targeting and promoting timely access to inputs by increasing private sector participation, the ‘E-voucher’ programme has the potential to accelerate diversification of the smallholder sector by allowing farmers to purchase a wide range of recommended inputs such as veterinary drugs, agricultural equipment, livestock, poultry and fingerlings.

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