GOVERNMENT has increased support to farmers under the pilot E- voucher system, bringing the total value of the card to K2,400.

And farmers have praised President Edgar Lungu for allowing the Ministry of Agriculture to increase the subsidy under the electronic voucher system from the previous K1,000.

This is after farmers asked the Government to increase the subsidy following a rise in prices of agricultural commodities with their contribution still standing at K400.

Copperbelt Province agricultural coordinator (PACO) Obvious Kabinda revealed that farmers have already received the top-up and were happy with the gesture.

“You will agree with me that in the conventional FISP, there was a role that Government played to pay the local transporters, inter-provincial transporters, warehouse managers and also the people who were facilitating.

‘‘And when you look at the colossal amount of money that was being spent and compare it with E-voucher system, literally we are not spending much because the money is now being used to service the farmers,” Dr Kabinda said.

He also said the new technology which was being piloted in 13 districts across the country, with Ndola being the only district on the Copperbelt, had recorded more than 95 per cent success.

Dr Kabinda noted that about 25 per cent of farmers in Ndola had also benefited from the electronic voucher system, compared to the previous seasons under the conventional Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).

He appealed to the Ministry of Agriculture to consider extending the programme to the entire region.

“We have 8,260 beneficiaries and at least 25 per cent of farmers have benefited compared to the old FISP’’.

Meanwhile, Ndola district agricultural co-ordinator Zeniah Nambeye said the district was likely to have a 30 per cent crop reduction as compared with last year because of the poor rainfall pattern.

Ms Nambeye said the dry spell which started from 28th December 2015 to January 8, 2016, had forced farmers to abandon their fields and have now started replanting.

She encouraged farmers to venture into drought resistant crops and avoid dependence on maize. – NAIS 

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