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E-vouchers to bridge gap between farmers and retailers

19 July 2012

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E-vouchers, an innovative, market-based approach is providing farmers with agricultural inputs in Zimbabwe.

Over the past eight years, the humanitarian community in Zimbabwe has been supporting smallholder farmers, mainly through free direct input distribution. Recently, however, positive macro-economic and food security conditions have allowed a move to more innovative, market-based approaches. The use of electronic vouchers to buy agricultural inputs - a programme supported by FAO Zimbabwe - is one such approach for agricultural inputs in Zimbabwe.

In the 2011/2012 agricultural season, FAO has scaled up distribution of agricultural inputs through an electronic voucher (e-voucher) system – the PRP II Electronic Payment System (PEPS). The objective of the programme is to provide e-voucher beneficiaries with agricultural inputs of their choice, while at the same time helping to re-vitalise the supplier-wholesaler-retailer chain in rural areas.

PEPS is targeted at districts where there is mobile network coverage, ZESA coverage, and an agro-dealer/retailer network at ward level.  PEPS  ensures immediate cash payment of commission to retailers and real time electronic transmission of payment to the relevant wholesalers/suppliers.

The voucher does not restrict the beneficiary to any one retailer, but allows them to choose inputs from pre-registered retailers within their ward, supplied by per-registered wholesalers and/or suppliers. Farmers can buy the agricultural inputs they need from four broad categories – seeds, fertilizers and lime, agrochemicals, and tools or spare parts for farming equipment.

Swipe cards are loaded with e-vouchers to the value of USD 160 and distributed to selected vulnerable beneficiaries. At the time of purchase the beneficiary are required to pay 10% of the value of the purchase to the retailer in cash, while the rest of the total value is electronically deducted from the swipe card.

The use of vouchers promotes farmer-driven and market-friendly recovery and development, as well as supporting the re-establishment of agro-dealer networks across the country.

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