Thursday, 12 January 2012

Farm inputs in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's Grain Marketing Board (GMB) has distributed over 13 000t of fertiliser and 1000t of seeds to farmers around the country. This is under the Input Loan Scheme, which brings together three input schemes to ensure that farmers receive inputs on time. All this is good - more people growing food probably means that next year less than 1 million Zimbabweans will need food assistance.

Technical detail from the article bothered me though:

"Due to limited quantities of inputs at GMB depots, our depot managers resorted to rationalise the allocation to ensure that more farmers benefit from the loan scheme," he said.
The quantities per farmer have been quite carefully worked out (at least by the looks of it) for this scheme. That means 'rationalising the allocation' is a problem. Of course, it would be nice to help everyone. It would always be nice to help everyone. But this is a targeting-for-impact problem - if there is a minimum threshold below which the inputs do not do enough good to justify the programme, 'rationalising' to help more people actually helps no-one. A programme like this is only effective if each farmer in the programme receives enough of each input to make a difference to him or her. It's nice that the GMB is proud of having helped as many people as possible but if the way they've achieved this is to give less than the minimum necessary amount to each farmer, they're shooting themselves (and the programme) in the foot.

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