PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu should be commended for having improved the efficiency of the Farm Input Support Programme which has enhanced the lives of many small-scale farmers and vulnerable families, traditional leaders have said.

Chief Chipepo of the Tonga people in Southern Province and Chief Chisunka of Bemba speaking people in Luapula have said the FISP initiative had guaranteed food security in the country, making Zambia a food basket in the region. Chiefs Chipepo and Chisunka said Government had done well to partner with the private sector in ensuring that the FISP programme was successful which they said had culminated into the country recording net surplus of food.

Chief Chisunka said the distribution of farming inputs had greatly improved and that farmers in rural communities were able to access their inputs in good time and with little or no complications. Many rural farmers were now able to send their children to school and that many others had graduated from owning grass-thatched houses to iron-roofed ones, the chief said. He said President Lungu and his Government should be supported because of their determination to eradicate poverty and hunger through FISP which he said was one of the best initiatives in creating wealth among disadvantaged rural communities.

Chief Chisunka said the partnership between Government and the private sector should continue because the State alone was not going to successfully implement the programme.

The traditional leader has appealed to Government to consider increasing the number of packs under the programme because most farmers had over the years increased the number of hectares.

“The FISP programme has been the best initiative by Government in empowering rural farmers and vulnerable communities. Many Zambians have benefited from this programme and in my chiefdom, I can happily tell you that many of my subjects are no longer living in grass-thatched houses.  ‘‘They have graduated from living in grass-thatched houses and are now proud owners of modern and iron sheet roofed houses. The partnership between Government and the private sector in the implementation of FISP should be allowed to continue because the State alone would not be able manage,” Chief Chisunka said

And Chief Chipepo said for the first time in many years, inputs had been delivered and distributed on time and that the agriculture sector had been revolutionized in Zambia.

Chief Chipepo said the only challenge farmers had was the erratic rainfall as the result of the El-Nino in some parts of the country but was optimistic that the country would still manage to harvest enough maize.

“There shall always be skeptics in any programme but we must give credit where it is due. As a result of the FISP programme, Zambia has had consecutive bumper harvests making the country a grain basket in the region.

‘‘Government has done very well in making Zambia food secure. The FISP programme has put income in many households in the country and it is our hope that the programme is going to continue,” Chief Chipepo said.

He however observed that there had been a tendency by some rural farmers who were reselling the inputs at a lower cost than the Government’s subsidized rate and appealed to the Ministry of Agriculture to continue sensitizing farmers involved in the vice.

Chief Chipepo said Government had done well in screening the beneficiaries of the FISP programme which had resulted into the elimination of about 15,000 ghost farmers from the programme.

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