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Input voucher study Zambia
Final report
October 2007
Thomson Kalinda and Mwalimu Simfukwe


Abstract

This report is part of a study of experiences with the use of agricultural input vouchers in southern Africa and builds on previous work during 2005-2006. It is being carried out in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.

A previous study of the relief seed trade in Zambia (Simfukwe 2006) 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.

This study builds on the previous work to ascertain stakeholders’ perspectives and views about input vouchers. We interviewed a small number of stakeholders in Western Province who had had some experience with input vouchers, and others in Luapula Province who had no such experience. Broadly, we found strong support for implementing an input voucher system integrated with seed fairs as an on-going program to enhance access to inputs and therefore agricultural productivity.

The study has achieved results that confirm the favourable responses that recent users/beneficiaries of vouchers have provided, and that if implemented, the voucher system would provide a natural feedback mechanism for both public and private input suppliers on the actual needs of the farmers. The study has also shown that while Direct Seed Distribution (DSD) and the voucher approach both deliver inputs to the farmers, DSD does not benefit from the feedback of farmers since it is a top down approach, while the voucher system is a bottom-up mechanism.

Despite controversy over experiences such as fraud, certification, and questions about measures of input quality, the input voucher system is being recommended by this study as the most effective way for government and NGOs to channel inputs, at national or regional level, to small scale farmers without undermining the development of private sector-led seed marketing and distribution systems.

The involvement of local communities and other stakeholders has the advantage of linking the input voucher system to the viable socio-economic vulnerability assessments, community contribution towards the value of vouchers, development of "owned" rules and sanctions, as well as redemption criteria.

In a nutshell, the study recommends that for policy implementation purposes, a nationwide voucher programme should be implemented, with wide stakeholder consultation, in a step-by-step manner, covering growing geographical areas, starting with those with the highest likelihood of success.

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