Sokoloka SILC Group in Mwense rural district has called on government through the Ministry of Agriculture to consider supporting SILC Groups through the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).
Speaking when the RUFEP team and Programme Steering Committee (PSC) members visited the group in Mwense with staff from the Catholic Diocese of Mansa (CDM), Sokoloka SILC Group Secretary Joseph Mungole urged government through the Ministry of Agriculture to recognize SILC just like cooperatives.
Mr. Mungole said SILC Groups also need support from the government’s Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) under the Ministry of Agriculture just like the cooperatives.
“The same way government through the Ministry of Agriculture provides FISP to the Cooperatives, we also want to be assisted. If Cooperatives receive inputs from government, what about the SILC groups?” he asked.
Responding to the question, Ministry of Agriculture’s Director Agribusiness and Marketing Mrs. Keziah Katyamba advised that SILC groups need to be formalized through registration to access support from government.
Mrs. Katyamba said it was gratifying to see that SILC groups were self-reliant and growing without depending on government. She urged Sokoloka SILC Group members not to wait for government but to use their savings to buy inputs, or embark on income generating activities for the group such as buying a hammer mill.
And Ministry of Finance’s Investment and Debt Management Director Mr. Jacob Mkandawire echoed that self-reliance evidenced from the operations of the SILC groups was the best form of empowerment as individuals and group members know what works better for themselves.
“We have heard cases where FISP inputs are given out to support farmers but some people decide to sell the inputs to do fishing instead. It is you who knows the best you can do for yourself”, Mr. Mkandawire said.
He said the PSC members were happy to hear testimonies from Sokoloka SILC group members that from the group savings, members were able to buy agricultural inputs, pay school fees and improve their houses. Mr. Mkandawire added that government wants to see that SILC Groups grow and graduate and was willing to provide support where there was need.
Sokoloka SILC Group was started in April 2018 and has a membership of 32 (25 women and 7 men). The SILC Group was created by the Private Service Provider (PSP) supported by CDM’s Expanding Financial Inclusion in Luapula (EFIL) project financed by RUFEP under the CBFIs linkages window.
During the last share-out, in December 2018, the group shared about ZMW40, 000 .00. By the month-end of August 2019, the group savings and the loan funds had amounted to about ZMW60, 000.00 and the group is due for share-out by October 2019 in readiness for the farming season.