Govt to use ICT in Agriculture
By BiztechAfrica – Nov. 23, 2012, 6:38 p.m.
By Gregory Gondwe, Blantyre, Malawi
Malawi’s government has decided to adopt ICT in its Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) which has been dogged by fraud for the past few years it has been in force.
Through the ICT programme, which is being done in collaboration with African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC), government will be issuing out e-vouchers to smallholder farmers in the hope of improving efficiency and effectiveness in the distribution of farm input.
“The vouchers will be electronically linked to a beneficiary and can only be used after verifying its validity through Airtel network by an agro-dealer,” said Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security Dr. Jeffrey Luhanga.
The coupons which will be known by a local language word that means truth ‘Zoona e-voucher’ will be a departure from using the paper coupons where there is a lot of fraud, to the e-voucher platform which uses voucher scratch cards that are activated and redeemed using mobile phones.
E-Voucher Programme manager, Daisy Kambalame explained that the new technology will be provided by Mobile Transactions International (MTI) which is an electronic mechanism that potentially replaces the paper coupons in distribution of goods and services.
“It aims at reducing administrative costs as the voucher is verified electronically and promotes effectiveness while improving availability of information and controls,” she said. “The system uses voucher scratch cards that are activated on a mobile phone and distributed to targeted farmers.”
Targeted farmers will receive an e-voucher to be redeemed for inputs at a local agro-dealer.
“With the e-voucher system, an account is created in which funds of the value of the vouchers are put and beneficiaries receive an electronic scratch card with which they redeem at a retailer’s shop as the retailer is automatically paid the value of the product,” explained Kambalame.
Luhanga agreed with Kambalame saying the agro-dealer is assured of receiving the money for the goods supplied instantly.
“The e-voucher platform reduces administrative costs, promotes effectiveness and improves efficiency in distributing agricultural inputs to farmers,” he said.
The 3 year pilot project will be piloted in Malawi’s three districts of Salima, Dowa and in rural areas of Capital Lilongwe and will be targeting 6000 farmers.
The programme is rolling out with financial supported from NORAD, Irish Aid, Rural Livelihoods Enhancement programme (RLEEP) and the international Zinc Association (IZA).
Luhanga says the initiative is a welcome development looking at its advantages like the saving of administrative costs.
“We are looking forward to draw lessons in this pilot phase so that it can be improved if necessary before scaling up,” he said.
Kambalame said the e-voucher has been successfully used in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique with over 750,000 farmers participating in subsidy programme since 2010.
She said her institution promotes the role of business in building sustainable communities through facilitating multi stakeholder partnerships, advocacy, research, capacity building and innovations.
“Each beneficiary will get an e-voucher with a serial number to be electronically linked to the beneficiary’s identity and the agro-dealer can only release goods after verifying the validity of the voucher,” she explained.