Government says it will sternly deal with any officer allegedly abusing the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) distribution.Agriculture Minister Dora Siliya says her office has recently received disturbing reports that some officers are allegedly diverting and selling inputs as well as embezzling the cash for selfish gains.

Ms. Siliya revealed that her office is for this reason ‘compiling’ a list of the perpetrators before bringing the culprits to book.

The minister sounded the warning in Lusaka yesterday shortly after she inspected the Bauleni Solar milling plant. She said abusers were frustrating the efforts of the government in the provision of incentives to the vulnerable people.

The milling plant put in place by government under the President’s empowerment initiative has enabled the Bauleni Compound community to buy mealie-meal cheaply at K80 and K68 for a 25 kilogramme bag of breakfast and roller meal, respectively.

And Government says cheaper mealie-meal is underway in Lusaka and many parts of the country. Ms Siliya who disclosed the development at the same occasion has assured the nation that mealie-meal prices would soon reduce to the affordability of most ordinary Zambians.

She said it is regrettable to note that the price of the essential commodity, meali-meal, in other parts of the country has exceeded K100 saying this trend would come to an end, soon.

Ms. Siliya also disclosed that government through her ministry has procured a total of 2,000 solar milling plants from China that are being administered by the Zambia Cooperative Federation, ZCF.

Currently there are 287 installed solar milling plants throughout the country.

And Patrick Mumbi, an employee at the miller disclosed that the miller is producing 40 x 25kgs of mealie-meal on a daily basis.

Mumbi says he was among many in the area who are benefiting from the milling plant as he is one of the employees there.

He said he is happy that government has provided him with a job through the milling plant thereby lessening poverty at his household.

Meanwhile, Ms. Siliya has reaffirmed that crop diversification is key to transforming the agriculture sector.

She said government means well in diversifying the economy through the participation of the private sector.

On irrigation, Ms. Siliya revealed that government has sourced US$40 million from the Indian government for irrigation purposes as opposed to depending on rainfall.

Ms. Siliya said government would work closely with the World Bank and other cooperating partners to invest in and improve irrigation systems in Zambia.

The Minister said this when she toured the 3.5 hectare farm in Ibex Hill owned by seasoned commercial farmer and politician Melania Chipungu.

She said government is serious about making the agriculture sector a lucrative business where agro-dealers, suppliers and other players participate in a conducive atmosphere even without the State.

She said her ministry would be ‘weaned off’ from participating in agriculture activities.

The Minister of Agriculture today conducted a field visits to millers, agro-depots and at the Ibex farm to familiarize herself.

Ms. Siliya was accompanied by Emma Malambo Director for Policy and Planning and Keziah Kachamba Director for Business and Marketing and
National Agriculture and Information Service (NAIS) deputy director, Mutukelwa Mukelabai.

Other notables included Lusaka Provincial Agricultural Coordinator Dr. Lenios Mushimbwe and Lusaka District Agricultural Coordinator Dr. Moses Daka. – (Lusaka Times)








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