It is now almost 10 years since Malawi government introduced the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP), a programme which produced wonders in its initial stages.
Over the years, however, the programme has been highly politicised; it has been used as a self-enrichment tool for politicians from the parties that have been in power. The trickle-down-effect has been so insignificant due to politics that is involved from tendering, through bidding, supplying, to transportation and selling of the farm inputs.
On average of US$65, 000, 000.00 (US$ Sixty Million Only) (about MK48, 000, 000, 000.00) has been invested in the programme which is consumption-driven.
Ten years down the line the farmer who the programme is supposed to uplift out of the poverty trap, has become poorer. The list of beneficiaries has been increasing. Besides, the farmers who are supposed to graduate from the programme have never graduated. Instead, they have become more dependent every year, thus increasing the poverty gap.
Now the most pertinent question is: is there anything that could be done about the FISP situation to ensure optimum use of the resources that are invested annually? The answer is a resounding YES!
Having talked to a very senior officer in one of the biggest companies in Malawi that are involved in the agricultural sector, my attitude and mentality about FISP has completely changed.
Studies have been conducted on the subject and the results are mind boggling! Did you know that if government only contracted four big companies (Press Agriculture, Illovo and two more) so that they are assured of ready market on harvesting, government would only spend US$4, 500, 000.00 (about MK3, 375, 000, 000 @$1:MK750) as initial capital expenditure (acquisition of irrigation equipment and other capital items) and then only US$3, 000, 000.00 (MK2, 250, 000, 000.00 only) as operating capital to produce 40% of the national food requirement?
We would then have to look at universally subsidizing the farm inputs to produce the remaining 60% of the national food requirement and possibly excess for export. Obviously this would require no more than US$10, 000, 000.00 (about MK7, 500, 000, 000.00). This will ensure predictability in food production, check of annual inflation as the inflation basket is mostly food-driven and then make development projects predictable.
How many resources would we free and put to productive use every year by using this model? We only need to be rational and get politics out of FISP and embark on our journey to development for all and get rid of this elitist economy that only benefits ruling politicians, their cronies and tribesmen!