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Zambian govt backtracks on e-voucher system

Zambian govt backtracks on e-voucher system.

The Minister of Agriculture has said the government will push ahead with the implementation of the electronic voucher (e-voucher) system to help managed the distribution of farming inputs.

Given Lubinda said in a ministerial statement in parliament yesterday that although the e-voucher system is facing serious challenges, the government will not abandoned it - but will instead make it work.

Challenges include increasingly expensive inputs, due to the weakening of the currency, said Lubinda but added that the government will increase the amount loaded on the cards to ensure that farmers benefit.

He also said the ministry of Finance has agreed to release more funds to the tune of K42 million in order to make it work before the onset of rains.

The minister's statement comes barely a day after the Secretary General of the ruling Patriotic Front Davies Chama confirmed the system had failed because the e-voucher cards are not ready and that those that have been printed have not been verified.

Chama said in addition to the system failure, dealers that have the inputs are increasing their prices.

Despite the challenges, authorities now intend to proceed with implementation.

"We are currently mobilising more resources to load the e-voucher cards so that farmers can access the inputs. We will overcome the challenges we are facing with the system and we are sure the system will work successfully," Lubinda said.

The mobile and tracking system was launched last month by President Edgar Lungu to provide subsidised seeds and fertilizer through private suppliers with the aim of eliminating corruption and promoting efficiency.

The electronic cards were loaded with cash amounting to K1,400 for seeds and fertilizer. But the price of inputs has doubled from K240 to K500 per 50kg bag of fertilizer from the time the programme was launched.

The e-voucher system is now scheduled for pilot implementation in 13 districts including Chongwe, Kalomo, Pemba, Chisamba and Mumbwa.

If successful, the government plans to roll the system out to more districts in order to reach more beneficiaries in the 2016-2017 farming season and beyond.

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