Barely a month after being launched Zambia's electronic voucher (e-voucher) system, under the farmer Input Support Programme, has failed with the government now reverting to the old system of distributing farming inputs.
President Edgar Lungu launched the mobile and tracking system in October to provide subsidised seeds and fertilizer through private suppliers with the aim of eliminating corruption and promoting efficiency.
The e-voucher system uses mobile technology for the activation and redemption of vouchers and empowers farmers to select the inputs they need.
However, Secretary General of the ruling Patriotic Front Davies Chama confirmed the system had failed because e-voucher cards are not ready and those that have been printed have not been verified.
He also said some dealers do not have the inputs. "Additionally, the dealers that have the inputs are increasing prices and basically the entire system is not ready and yet the rains have started."
The electronic cards were supposed to be loaded with cash amounting to K1, 400 for seeds and fertilizer. But the prices of inputs have almost doubled from K240 to K500 per 50kg of fertilizer from the time the programme was launched due to the weakening of Zambia's currency.
The e-voucher system was in the process of being piloted in 13 districts including Kalomo, Chongwe, Chisamba, Mumbwa and Pemba, targeting 241,000 small-scale farmers.
Agriculture Minister Given Lubinda told lawmakers last month through a ministerial statement that the total cost of the programme is K2.1 billion.
The government had planned to roll the system out to more districts in order to reach more beneficiaries in the 2016-2017 farming season and beyond, with authorities confident of the system's success based on its proven track record in countries like Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Failure now means that farming inputs will be distributed to farmers through cooperatives, a system heavily criticised for its bureaucracy and being prone to corruption. It also means that farmers will not be able to plant their crops on time and will impact on crop production