Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa has expressed serious concern with regards to appalling problems that smallholder farmers across the country are facing to access and buy cheap fertilizer and seeds under the government’s Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) —the successor programme for the Farm Input Subsidy.
Subsistence farmers have been sleeping outside retail fertilizer stores nights on end to access the cheap fertilizer without getting the same because of what authorities say are communication and networking problems.
When he visited several outlets at Thyolo Boma, including Export Trading and Worldwide shops to appreciate the challenges first-hand, Nankhumwa said he was saddened by what he witnessed, the unimaginable levels of suffering that the farmers, especially women, are going through to access and buy the cheap fertilizers.
He blasted the Tonse alliance led government for failing Malawians on the AIP that, he said, has seen poor Malawians sleeping at Admarc depots for many days without accessing the commodities.
Media reports indicate that close to one million poor Malawians will not access AIP due to technical hitches as disclosed by the Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe.
After extensive discussions with the traders and some farmers, Nankhumwa said he had discovered that the mess is much deeper than he thought, demanding that government gives this matter the immediate attention it deserves.
He told the seemingly annoyed farmers that he is aware that government is attempting to rectify the challenges but observed time was the farmers’ worst enemy.
“They (government) better do it quickly because we should not allow this mess to continue when the rains are already upon us. These logistical challenges and delays would certainly impact negatively on the farmers’ harvests this year.
“I wish to remind the Tonse Alliance government that they pledged during the political campaign that Malawians will now be able to afford three meals a day. I am afraid that at the rate we’re going, in as far as the cheap fertilizer scheme is concerned, we may end up having no meal at all. This is a matter of life and death,” said Nankhumwa.
Nankhumwa told Nyasa Times in an interview that apart from the networking and communication challenges, farmers in Thyolo had also complained about underweight bags and poor-quality fertilizers.
One of the farmers at Thyolo, Aines Wisiki said she had been at the shop for six (6) days without buying a bag of maize. She is still waiting, breastfeeding her 9-months daughter.
“It’s a punishment; it’s ridiculous that after all that we heard from our politicians about this programme, this is the pain that we should be going through,” she complained.
Information Minister Gospel Kazako told reporters in Lilongwe on Thursday that there will be improvement in the sale of the cheap fertilizer because network and communication challenges have been dealt with.
Kazako, flanked by Agriculture Minister Lowe and National Unity and Civic Education Minister Timothy Mtambo, said the internet protocol address, which was cause for communication problems had been sorted out.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has also spoken against challenges hampering the distribution of affordable farm inputs.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :