Impact of the Farmer Input Support Policy on Agricultural Production Diversity and Dietary Diversity in Zambia

With vast and abundant natural resources such as land and water, Zambia has great potential to achieve self-sufficiency in agricultural production and hence meet her nutritional needs. Despite this endowment, poverty and malnutrition levels remain significantly high. To tackle the prevalence of poverty and food and nutritional insecurity, the Zambian Government has paid attention to improving incomes, agricultural production and productivity among the rural smallholder farmers who constitute more than 80% of the farming community in the country. Agricultural input subsidies mainly to support the production of maize have been used as a policy tool to induce farmers to increase their yields through increased use of maize hybrid seed and chemical fertilizers. Although subsidies have historically been there before the 1990s, it was not until the 2002-2003 season that saw the birth of the Fertilizer Support Programme and marked the return of large-scale input subsidies in Zambia. The Fertilizer Support Programme was renamed the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) in 2008, and the programme has run from 2009-2010 to the present day. Although there have been some movements towards promoting other agricultural enterprises, the structure of FISP is largely skewed towards the promotion of the staple maize crop through subsidized fertilizers. The ‘stop’ and ‘go’ FISP e-voucher operational policy, which allows farmers to redeem inputs of their choice from agro-dealers, has also not helped in diversifying the agricultural sector. This is largely due to the lack of confidence in the e-voucher system itself by policy makers, and the monotonic focus of agro-dealers to mainly supply inputs closely associated with maize production.