Malawi Governmentâ€™s assurance of a successful Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) this year appears to be hitting a blank as the initiative continues to register anomalies.
This puts at risk lives of 1.5 million farming families that depend on the programme.
Barely a week before the official launch by Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Professor Peter Mwanza on November 6, police impounded a 15-tonne truck which was offloading 600 bags of subsidised fertiliser mixed with sand at Katuli Admarc Depot in Mangochi.
Two weeks later, a truck driver was arrested after allegedly diverting a truck loaded with 600 bags of fertiliser meant for Admarc depots in the Southern Region and offloaded 40 bags in Ndirande Newlines in Blantyre.
Last week, Police in Blantyre intercepted 307 bags of subsidised fertiliser in Dedza meant for beneficiaries in Zomba and Mulanje districts.
So far, 22 people across the country have reportedly been arrested in Fisp-related cases ranging, among others, from stealing the subsidised fertiliser, possession of counterfeit coupons and diverting fertiliser to unknown locations.
Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security public relations officer Sara Tione on Tuesday agreed this yearâ€™s Fisp seems to be facing a lot of challenges.
But she said the ministry is working with the police as well as the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to ensure that nobody gets away with the inputs meant for the poor.
Said Tione: â€œThe programme seems to be registering more cases because of the control measures put in place.
â€œThe reason there are many reported as well as registered cases is because there is a toll free number which people who think the farm inputs are being mismanaged dial and tell the police as well as ACB.
â€œThe ministry also enforced checkpoints where delivery of the subsidised farm inputs is checked, officials check if the fertiliser entering a district is intended for that district and any anomalies are reported.â€
She argued the programme is still going to benefit the intended needy people as when cases are reported, the inputs are confiscated and taken back to the rightful owners.
National Police spokes-person Rhoda Manjolo said police has intensified security to protect the Fisp inputs.
She said the police are still moving up and down to ensure the programme reaches the targeted deserving poor, but asked the communities to also take part in helping the police.
Said Manjolo: â€œThe police cannot curb crime involving the subsidised inputs alone. There is a need for coordination between the police and communities if a successful Fisp is to be achieved. Malpractices should be reported without hesitation.â€