Kenya will launch an electronic voucher subsidy programme this week in a move aimed at addressing the challenges of input thefts that marred the previous process.
The first phase will cover 200,000 farmers across 12 counties and it will be rolled out this Friday in Kisumu. The second will add 17 more counties with all the regions expected to be covered in the next two years.
Under the e-voucher programme, a number of agrovet will be registered with the government to participate.
Farmers will be issued with the e-vouchers through their mobile phones after validation by extension officers. They will then be given a pay bill number to make payments and receive a text message confirmation from Safaricom.
“Farmers will take the message to registered agro dealers and get the farm inputs they require,” said Joseph Komu, project coordinator of the national value chain support.
Once a farmer's payment has been made, it will trigger the government side that supports this programme, which will then pay the balance to ensure the agro dealer gets a hundred percent of the total amount needed for a given input.
Through this programme, the farmer will pay 40 percent of the entire cost with remainder to be met by the government.
This is part of the wider plan by the government to address the challenge of low yields.
The government has been implementing a fertiliser subsidy for the last 12 years. The current scheme model has however been inefficient and largely public sector-driven in the importation, storage and distribution through the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).
This model has faced some challenges including high cost to government, at approximately Sh5 billion per year and has been characterised by inefficiencies in its delivery and management.
Over the years, the impact has remained sub-optimal, failing to realise the food and nutrition security targets as not all targeted farmers are effectively reached and even the few that are often reached, they get the fertiliser out of season.
The subsidy programme has previously focused mainly on fertiliser and less on other inputs thereby compromising the potential gains from a combination of various inputs (fertiliser, seeds, agrochemicals and other planting and stocking materials).
The programme will expand to other crops such as sugar cane, coffee and Irish potatoes unlike previously when it primarily targeted maize farmers.