—–Agriculture Minister Bob Sichinga has called for closer liaison between Mkushi district administration and his office on matters pertaining to fertiliser and seed distribution.
Mr Sichinga stated this during his tour of Mkushi district today, saying there is need for joint efforts to fortify the distribution of farming inputs from government’s Farmer Input Support Program (FISP) initiative.
He explained that the essence of the tour was to study the prevailing situation on the ground regarding the distribution of FISP fertiliser and seed to farmer beneficiaries in Mkushi and Luano districts.
The agriculture minister stressed that government was making keen follow ups to study the distribution performance of FISP, adding that it is eager to ensure that the distribution exercise is implemented without irregularities.
Mr Sichinga reiterated that the focus of the Agriculture Ministry was on genuine agriculture cooperatives, saying that the FISP program was primarily intended for small scale farmer cooperatives and not clubs.
He said that in this regard, government was making frantic efforts to establish a common understanding with the cooperatives structure from national, provincial and district levels.
He observed that extensive sensitisation was required in order to educate the communities on such an objective, saying that this required close cooperation between the Agriculture Ministry and District Administration.
Mr Sichinga also responded to various challenges presented to him by Mkushi District Commissioner Christopher Chibuye and his Luano counterpart Luka Mwamba.
In response to Mkushi’s appeal for increased number of FISP beneficiaries, Mr Sichinga explained that budget constraints were limitation factors that prevented government from considering only 24,000 FISP for Mkushi.
He elaborated that the current FISP budget could only support 900,000 farmers in the country despite recent study revelations that indicate that 1,000,470 farmers required this support.
For Luano, Mr Sichinga commented that the challenge of lack of office and residential accommodation for the newly deployed agriculture staff was an issue that government would overcome gradually.
He said that government was aware of the accommodation challenges in the newly declared Luano district, saying a challenge of this magnitude could not be overcome within short term.
Luano District Commissiner Luka Mwamba had informed the minister that agriculture staff that had been deployed in the district in November 2013 could only set up temporal residence in Masansa nearly hundred kilometers away from Luano plateau area.
Mr Sichinga conducted his inspection tour of Mkushi FISP operations today before proceeding to Serenje district.