Regina Pasipanodya / Mary Mundeya
THE distribution of basic farming essentials under the Presidential Input Scheme — also known as Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme — has come under scrutiny amid allegations that Grain Marketing Board (GMB) managers are conniving with Agricultural, Technical and Extension (Agritex) officers to milk communal farmers.
The farmers are losing money every year after being forced to pay transport fees already covered by the government, it has emerged.
An investigation by She Corresponds Africa in Headlands, Guruve and Karoi where a lot of subsistence farming is practiced revealed that farmers, who are the major beneficiaries of the programme, have been contributing unauthorised amounts ranging from US$1.50 to US$5 towards the transportation inputs from GMB depots to their respective wards since 2020.
The government has however been paying transporters for the delivery of inputs, meaning that officials are corruptly pocketing the money.
Farmers from Headlands who spoke to She Corresponds Africa disclosed that they were not aware that the government has been paying for the transportation of the Pfumvudza/Intwasa inputs. This was confirmed by community leaders on the record.
“Since Pfumvudza began, each beneficiary has been contributing between US$1.50 and US$2 per load of inputs that we have been getting from the programme. We are not aware that we were not supposed to pay anything towards the inputs transportation costs,” said a farmer.
Another farmer said: “The only difference between now and 2020 is that as villagers, we are no longer looking for the transporters ourselves. It’s now the work of GMB; otherwise the same manner in which we were contributing money towards the transportation of the Pfumvudza inputs which we give to Agritex officers who pay transporters hasn’t changed. What you are asking us about the government catering for the transport costs is news to us; there is no such thing.
“We recently paid US$1 towards the transportation of the sunflower seeds we received as part of the ongoing 2022 Pfumvudza inputs distribution programme and we are not aware that government through the GMB pays the transporters.”
In a separate set of interviews, farmers in Guruve and Karoi, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, disclosed that a year ago they were denied inputs after they refused to pay transport costs.
This was after they were informed that the government had covered all costs.
“Everyone who refused to pay the transport money that was being demanded for the Pfumvudza inputs was denied access to the inputs. If you didn’t pay the required US$5, there was nothing for you,” said an affected farmer.
Sources in and around the GMB’s Timbermills depot in Headlands and Kachuta depot in Guruve revealed that money contributed towards the transportation of Pfumvudza/ Intwasa inputs is shared among GMB depot managers, transporters and Agritex officers.
The sources explained how the racket works. When there is an expected delivery of the presidential inputs, beneficiaries are required to pay an amount prescribed by the area’s Agritex officer. Village inputs distribution committee members collect the money before the load arrives.
The money is then handed to Agritex officers who, when delivery is made, hand it over to the transporter.
The money is however later shared between the transporter, GMB officials and Agritex officials. Transporters then submit invoices to GMB headquarters in Harare, claiming payment from the government as per their contractual agreement.
A Headlands-based Pfumvudza/Intwasa inputs village distribution chairperson, Alice Kavhumbura, confirmed the goings-on.
“Every year we contribute towards transportation of the presidential inputs. For example last year, for a beneficiary to be given a 50kg bag of compound D [fertiliser], they were supposed to pay US$1.50, of which US$1 per bag would go towards the transporters’ payment and the remaining US$0.50 would be channeled towards the GMB’s representative and Agritex officer’s transport costs.
“As the distribution committee members, we also get a bit of money towards logistics such as airtime and we submit the money we would have collected to our Agritex officer, Mai (Roziwiter) Muringai, who gives it to the transporter of the day when the time comes”. Muringai confirmed Kavhumbura’s claims.
When asked how much the Pfumvudza beneficiaries are paying for transportation this year, Muringai said: “We are yet to be advised on how this year’s programme will go. Sometimes we have the inputs delivered for free, sometimes people are required to pay, so I will be only sure after tomorrow’s meeting.”
Headland’s ward 6 councillor Pedzisai Samanyanga confirmed playing a role in mobilising people to pay.
“As councillors, we also mobilise people to pay mostly between US$1 and US$1.50 for the transportation of each bag of fertilizer which is shared among different stakeholders, including the transporters, GMB personnel and distribution committees because they all have a role to play as far as the distribution of the presidential inputs is concerned. We know that government through the GMB also pays the transporters, but they say that the money is not enough to buy them fuel which requires US dollar payments, hence people have to contribute money in US dollars,” he said.
Kudakwashe Chigumo, the Karoi ward 6 councillor, said distribution this year was marred by violence.
“Most people in my ward who refused to contribute money towards the transportation of Pfumvudza inputs were denied access to the inputs that on three different intervals, immense violence erupted and people were injured.”
“GMB officials and transporters responded by denying farmers from my ward the presidential. In wards where people made contributions, farmers received inputs.”
She Corresponds Africa reached out to Patricia Dziva, manager of the GMB Timbermills depot in Headlands and Stanley Mutizwa, the manager of Kachuta depot in Guruve.
After our reporter introduced herself to Dziva and briefed her on why she was phoning, she abruptly terminated the call and blocked her.
Mutizwa said: “I’m not aware of any farmers’ contribution towards inputs transportation because I’m no longer at that that depot. I’m now based in Chiweshe, I was transferred last year.”
Asked to give clarity on the GMB’s stance concerning the transportation of the Pfumvudza/Intwasa inputs scheme, the parastatal’s chief executive officer, Rockie Mutenha, said: “Local transporters around the depots are engaged for movement of inputs across the country under the Presidential Inputs Programme. The transporters will then invoice GMB for payment. Arrangement and payment is the responsibility of GMB. “Presidential Inputs Programme transporters are always paid upon submission of their invoices. Both inputs and transport are met from the President’s budget. GMB is given the transport budget to pay transporters.”
Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development chief director Obert Jiri told She Corresponds Africa that farmers should not pay for the transportation of agricultural inputs under the Presidential Input Scheme.
He said it is the responsibility of the GMB to move inputs from depots to distribution centres in wards.