AIP greatest test: survey respondents prefer cash equivalent of subsidized farm inputs

Two thirds of 3,695 respondents (66 percent) on the question of the preferred modality of the Affordable Inputs Program (AIP) prefer to be given the cash equivalent of the subsidized farm inputs, according to a survey conducted in Zomba and Machinga districts by the Institute of Public Opinion and Research (IPOR).

The survey, according to IPOR, follows a plethora of hiccups AIP has been facing since its introduction in 2020, sparking mixed views on the effectiveness of the mode of implementation of the program.

It was part of a wider project looking at environmental governance around the Zomba Mountain Forest Reserve, covering traditional authorities Malemia, Nkapita, Mlumbe and Nkula in Zomba and Machinga districts.

Dr. Boniface Dulani, Director of Research and Operations

34 percent of the respondents prefer the current system of giving out coupons to the beneficiaries.

“While the results are representative of the study population, they cannot be generalized either for the populations of the two districts or Malawi at large.

“However, we believe that since the Zomba and Machinga populations in the study are predominantly agrarian, they are in many ways reflective of the wider Malawi society.

“The results, therefore, provide important lessons for government in terms of its policy options when it comes to the modality of the AIP,” reads in part a press release from IPOR.

AIP replaced the Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP), with the aim of improving food security at household and national levels. Targeted beneficiaries, among other things, buy two 50 kilogram bags of fertilizer at MK15,000 per bag, subsidized from about MK75, 000 per bag.

This, according to the interpretation of the IPOR survey, means a respondent would rather be given, among others, the MK100,000 subsidy on the two bags of fertilizer to fend for themselves.

Disaggregating the data by gender, the survey also found that “while majorities of both men and women prefer cash to coupons that they can redeem, women are nevertheless more likely than men to express preference for cash while a slightly higher proportion of men prefers coupons”.

This, according to IPOR, interpret these differences by speculating that “women suffer the greatest burden of spending more time in redeeming AIP coupons than men, hence their preference for cash which might reduce the time spent in obtaining the farm inputs”.

On analyzing the data by age categories, the survey found that adults are much more likely to prefer cash compared to the youth. IPOR speculates that “this is a function of the youth having limited experience of the challenges that are encountered in redeeming farm inputs using coupons”.

“Lastly, we looked at preferences for coupon versus cash by lived poverty categories.

“The lived poverty categories were calculated from an index of lived poverty based on a five-item scale, namely access to food, medicine, cash income, clean water and cooking fuel.

“When disaggregated by preference for coupons or cash modality of the AIP, we find that poorer citizens in the two survey districts express greater preference for disbursement of the AIP in the form of cash compared to the non-poor,” concludes the IPOR press release.

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