The Department of Agriculture in Eastern Province has proposed for a complete overhaul of cooperatives registration to clean up the database.
The department in the region has also suggested the need to introduce a biometric system of capturing fingerprints in identifying farmers when collecting inputs in order to reduce pilferage.
Provincial Agricultural Coordinator (PACO) Bisa Bwalya says the complete overhaul of the cooperatives registration is the only way to get rid of alleged ghost farmers from the system.
ZANIS reports that Ms Bwalya explained that her department does not have means to verify genuine farmers who were supposed to benefit from agricultural inputs.
‘’There is need to do an overhaul registration in the province so that we clean up the system and get rid of alleged ghost workers. It is very unfortunate that there are reports of ghost farmers and cooperatives, a situation which does not please officers in the province,’’ Ms. Bwalya said.
The Provincial Agricultural Coordinator was reacting to concerns farmers in the district raised that some cooperatives have ghost farmers being used to obtain fertiliser at the expense of genuine names.
This was during the farmers’ interactive meeting with the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture held at St. Margret’s Secondary school in Chipangali.
Ms Bwalya also observed that a biometric system of capturing fingerprints once used to identify farmers when collecting inputs would reduce pilfering using ghost farmers.
Earlier, the farmers accused agricultural camp officers and camp agricultural chairpersons of conniving and registering cooperatives with names of individuals who did not exist.
In February this year, two agricultural officers acting together with four individuals in the district were arrested after being accused of stealing 139 x 50 kilogram bags of fertilizer meant for farmers under the FISP.
Chipangali district has 16, 460 registered farmers under the Farmer Input Support Programme, according to information at the District Agricultural Coordinator’s office.
Meanwhile, Ms Bwalya also said there was need for government to give authority to the treasury so that staff is beefed up in Chipangali district.
She said out of 31 agricultural camps, only 18 are manned by camp officers thereby forcing some officers to man two camps while other camps were being supervised by block extension officers.