CHIEF Kathumba of the Chewa people in Sinda and Katete has expressed worry that the scattered FRA markets in various communities will attract corrupt activities from farmers who will be fighting for early space to sell their produce.
In an interview, chief Kathumba said it was unfortunate that the government was sensitising farmers to grow more crops but was denying them a good market.
“The way FRA markets have been scattered is not helpful to farmers because previously, farmers were made to travel short distances to the market. However, this year, markets have been stationed in long distance areas which will be a challenge to farmers because already, the crop price is not known and these distances will rob the little coins that a farmer has and will be sacrificed to transport,” chief Kathumba said.
“It’s a problem that here they have only put one market at Nchingilizya. Now for all the people to get there, it will bring a lot of problems and this will attract corruption such that during selling of the produce, there will be heavy congestion. Corruption will be seen where farmers will be trying to get an early score in selling their crop. But this won’t benefit the farmer and let government through the Ministry of Agriculture consider this situation.”
He asked the government to keep promises because it always urged farmers to take agriculture as a serious business.
“But when farmers do that, there isn’t a good consideration such as establishing markets in stipulated areas. I appeal to the government through [the Ministry of] Agriculture to revise the places they have stationed markets and see to it that distances are shortened. The government encourages farmers to practice serious agriculture and when farmers do that, they are denied good markets and what do they expect from farmers? It’s multiplied poverty!”
And chieftainess Nyanje of Petauke said the e-voucher system would destroy the potential of farmers who were used to the old system which seemed effective.
“This e-voucher they are talking about is a failed system in many districts; they did it last year and what guarantee do they have that this year it will do better? What went wrong with the old system? This is confusing farmers, they should always first consult people if they are interested in certain things rather than just telling them what someone has decided,” chieftainess Nyanje said.
She expressed worry that farmers were not highly educated people who could understand the new system.
“New technology things are not known for farmers and if someone brings technological things to an uneducated person, we say they want to steal from them. We expect issues of early farming input delivery to be addressed and not this e-voucher which failed last year,” chieftainess Nyanje said.
She said traditional leaders needed to be consulted on activities that concerned their subjects.
“We need to be consulted on behalf of our subjects,” said chieftainess Nyanje.
And farmer Benard Phiri, who is the secretary of the Chanzimu Cooperative, said the introduction of the e-voucher system was another way of government getting rid of agricultural subsidies.
“This new system does not give us hope at all,” complained Phiri.