National Association of Smallholder Farmers in Malawi (Nasfam), the largest smallholder-owned membership organisation, says the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) has huge potential to deal away with food security problems if well executed.
Nasfam board chairperson Clara Malikula said this on Saturday during the association’s 24th Annual General Meeting held virtually under the theme Building Resilient and Sustainable Farmer Enterprises.
“While we acknowledge that the programme is costly, if well executed the programme can deal away with food security problems, giving government and its partners time to focus on commercial activities that will help boost the economy,” she said.
AIP, the successor of Farm Inputs Subsidy Prgramme, is a key element in the 2020/21 National Budget and was expected to reach four times as many smallholder farmers but the number was later trimmed.
Initially, 4.2 million farming households were targeted but the number was cut to 3.7 milion, with each getting two 50 kilogrammes (kg) bags of fertiliser at K4 495 and a five kg seed at K2 000.
In the current budget, AIP was initially allocated K160.2 billion out of the K245 billion total allocation for the agriculture sector. The figure was later revised downwards to K140.2 billion
Makilula commended government for ensuring private sector involvement in AIP implementation, saying the move yielded dividends as those firms with infrastructure in the remote areas reached out beneficiaries.
Reacting to Nasfam’s observations, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Agness Nkusa Nkhoma said AIP has helped farmers to become resilient from shocks such as Covid-19, hoping that the programme will also help farmers to recover from the pandemic’s impact.
“A few farmers were unable to access the inputs due to a number of technical issues, but the programme has been a success and we will do much better in the coming year,” she said.
The minister encouraged Nasfam members to have a fine balance between crop and livestock production to enable the country to diversify the risks and also benefit from both value chains.