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Zambia input voucher study: Literature review and planning - Phase 1
16 June 2007
Thomson Kalinda and Mwalimu Simfukwe


Abstract

This report is part of a study of experiences with the use of input voucher studies in southern Africa. It builds on previous work during 2005-2006. It is being carried out in Malawi and Zambia, while a separate study is also underway in Mozambique. The study has two purposes: to identify whether (and how) input vouchers could be an effective mechanism for integrating the non-commercial and commercial input markets; and to demonstrate the value of policy research implemented as part of a full policy cycle (from research to analysis to advice to implementation).

The Government of Zambia has committed itself to collaborate and co-ordinate with all relevant institutions involved in agricultural marketing and input supply, with the private sector assuming an increasingly leading role in the procurement, supply and distribution of agricultural inputs and outputs. Government’s extent of participation in agricultural marketing continues to be determined by the extent to which the private sector capacity is growing in agricultural marketing.

During last year’s study of the relief seed trade in Zambia (Simfukwe, 2006), it was established that there are two parallel seed distribution systems in the country – the “commercial channel” through the wholesale and distribution networks of about 5-6 major seed companies, and the “non-commercial channel” through the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MACO), relief agencies and NGO farmer support programmes.

During literature review for this study, it became evident that most research supports the seed voucher and fairs approach with conditionalities to take into consideration country-specific reality and experiences encountered in other similar developing countries. This raises the question of how to make these findings available to policy makers.

The increasing complexities of governance requirements are beginning to demand evidence-based policy and suitable collaboration in the generation of this evidence. This pressure for increased planning transparency is pushing for increased dialogue in research processes, which would then lead to stakeholder involvement from the beginning.

The policy research analysis and engagement cycle is a very challenging development initiative in that it is implicitly synonymous with undertaking a reform process. Like most reform processes, there will be sectors of opposition and others in support. To harmonize and bridge the gap between research and policy requires the process to be not only collaborative but also as transparent as possible while calling for targeting of the appropriate stakeholder institutions and decision-makers.

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