Deficiency in AIP Policy Guideline Betraying Food Security
As the Affordable Input Program (AIP) remains the Malawi government’s bullet of shooting down hunger and poverty, the fight is facing another fierce enemy which has grossly interfered and compromised drive to promote the Malawi Development Goals (MDGs) on food security and poverty reduction at a household level by 2030.
The emerging enemy stands to be the targeted beneficiaries themselves who are involved in trade deals with both local and foreign vendors to sell the subsidized farm input, a decision that is beyond the AIP policy.
Zodiak can reveal that even though beneficiaries have grossly engaged in selling the farm input to vendors there is no law that stipulates that anyone found selling the AIP commodity must be arrested or treated otherwise because farm inputs are social entitlements that government is giving to its citizens.
Confirming with Zodiak in a telephone interview on Tuesday, a spokesperson in the ministry of agriculture Grecian Lungu, said the ministry only conducts financial management audits on finances allocated for operations of AIP in all district councils and does not necessarily audit how farmers have utilized the farm inputs.
“Actually as a ministry we normally do an audit of the program focused on financial management, on that aspect we normally disburse money for operations in all the district councils how the funds have been utilized and we take action on those involved in mismanaging the funds, “Lungu explained.
But In terms of how farmers have utilized the farm inputs government has very little authority to enforce some punishments on the farmers alleged to have been selling the inputs because the AIP policy does not give that mandate.
Lungu says the current AIP policy does not stipulate how the ministry should do with those beneficiaries who are involved in the selling of the subsidized farm inputs.
“We have been having some challenges to enforce the law on farmers alleged to have been selling the farm input because it is their social entitlement and the AIP policy is not clear on how to deal with such farmers, this is why you sometimes can see us reluctant to act,” he added.
As it is by the status quo, it is no longer a secret that the sole purpose of the program has been betrayed because of some deficiencies in the policy guidelines, management, and operations of the AIP. It also shows that the more farmers enjoy their social entitlement on the subsidized farm inputs, the more farmers will continue selling the farm inputs and the more Malawians will continue facing hunger and poverty situations.
Early this month, a local private organization called Mwapata Institute brought together agriculture experts and policymakers in Lilongwe to discuss its findings after they conducted research on the implementation of AIP.
The institute found that government missed a point on the targeting of AIP beneficiaries because there are some beneficiaries who do not have farmland and labor to utilize the farm input. Perhaps this could be one of the reasons which are compelling them to sell the fertilizer to vendors.
Mwapata Institute Research fellow, Christine Nyondo and stakeholders in the program implored government to redesign the AIP suggesting that some beneficiaries might need other interventions, not fertilizer for it to be more efficient.
“That can only happen if the government can redefine the objective of the program, simplify it and make it more explicit so that we don’t try to achieve a lot of issues through one program,” he said.
The organization also wonders why as a country “we are putting a lot of fertilizer into the soil when the issue of soil health has not been addressed.”
But the ministry says due to the continued anomalies in the implementation of AIP government has proposed some amendments focusing on the reforms which the ministry will be undertaking after the end of this year’s program.
“We want to bring in a component that will allow farmers just like we did in Nsanje and Chikwawa to choose the components of their choice but most farmers in Likoma and Chizumulu still wanted the fertilizers,” explained the ministry’s spokesperson.
He added that: “but this seems not to be a good approach because most farmers there would still need to sell their farm inputs.”
Lungu said as one way of doing away with the selling of farm input in the next farming season the ministry will target the registered clubs which will bring farmers together and will be given bags of fertilizers and seeds labeled Malawi government which will on the other hand help to deal with anyone including vendors for buying or selling government property.
Lungu added: “as a ministry, we will target registered clubs in the aspects that they will buy fertilizer as a club in which every individual will use it as a club member and that bag of fertilizer will have a government logo.” Saying doing so will minimize issues of beneficiaries selling the farm input to vendors.”
The end of the year 2021/22 report on agriculture to a full council committee presented at a full council meeting held in the district on 25 and 26 February, says Likoma and Chizumulu has a total land area of 28Km2 of which only 43.2% on average is cultivable land but only 0.04% represents landholding farmers against the total number of 2,780 AIP targeted beneficiaries.
This could be one of the big gaps compelling the Island people to take back the fertilizer to the mainland and even beyond the borders to Tanzania, Zambia, and Mozambique where some beneficiaries claim they have farmlands there.
The malpractice is found to be retrogressive and affecting the Malawi Development Goals (MDGs) stressing the need to eradicate poverty and hunger while Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number two puts emphasis on eradicating all forms of hunger and Malnutrition by 2030 ensuring that all people especially women and children have sufficient and nutritious food all year.
Meanwhile, some stakeholders have suggested that in the proposed amended policy guideline government should include a component that can either give the AIP beneficiaries option to choose money or food hampers comprising maize and other foodstuff.
Assessment of this year’s harvesting season is expected to have mixed reactions following the cyclone winds which may have a direct impact on the production of maize and other crops after floods that swept away various farms.
The effects may be a heavy blow on government assessment on how this year’s AIP has perfumed also taking into account that government failed to meet all the 3.8 million beneficiaries with farm inputs pegged at K142 billion.