FAO Regional Office for Africa

FAO pilots electronic vouchers for agricultural inputs in Lesotho

Increasing farmers’ timely access to agricultural inputs, promoting transparency in distribution

Ramotebang (right) with other farmers who received the agricultural inputs using the e-voucher system in Matsieng, Lesotho. ©FAO/Teopista Mutesi

15 December 2021 – FarmerRamotebang Moabi received a short message on his mobile phone inviting him to go to the nearest Agricultural Resource Centre the next day to collect agricultural inputs. The message also carried a coupon or voucher code. At the Matsieng sub-centre, he presented the SMS and voucher code, and his national identity number to the agro-dealer who entered his name in the electronic voucher management system. After, a confirmation message is sent to Ramotebang’s phone for verification, he is ready to redeem the agricultural package.

The voucher codes (e-vouchers) system is being piloted in the distribution of livelihood support to vulnerable farmers that were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and floods that hit some parts of Lesotho, worsening the food insecurity situation.

The heavy rains that hit Ramotebang’s area destroyed his maize and beans on 5-acres, exposing his family to food insecurity and poor incomes. He received an agricultural package including fertilizer, maize and bean seeds from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), thanks to the European Union’s financial support.

The agricultural input support is targeting about 3 000 farming households in Mafeteng and Maseru districts to recover and restore their livelihoods. Each farmer received 10 kilos of maize seeds, 10 kilos of bean seeds and 50 kilos of fertilizer.  

Strengthening the role of the private sector

The e-voucher system aims to improve the supply and delivery of the inputs to the farmers through local agro-dealers. It will also boost the capacity of agro-dealers to deliver agricultural inputs to vulnerable farmers, even in emergencies.

The agro-dealers are appreciating the e-voucher system saying it is fast, appropriate and effective.

Saving money and resources

The e-voucher system saves time and resources in supporting vulnerable farmers. It is also helping to establish a direct contact between farmers and agro-dealers.

“Under the present set up, mobilizing farmers for agricultural inputs distribution entails traveling to areas of the selected farmers to inform the village chiefs to invite the concerned households. Yet some farmers live in remote areas, especially those living in the mountains. We need at least three days for the message to get to the farmers,” said Nkopane Moifo, agriculture assistant coordinating input distribution at Matsieng sub-centre.

The e-voucher will be an effective tool in real-time monitoring and evaluation of input distribution to farmers; it will be easy to know the number of farmers supported at the end of the season.

The list of selected households participating in the e-voucher system was uploaded into the online Farmer Registry platform developed by FAO under the Lesotho Integrated Agriculture Management Information System (LIAMIS). The system links the agro-dealer database to the national Farmer Registry to provide timely access to inputs and agro-services at the same time.

“This e-voucher system is in line with the Government of Lesotho’s plan to implement a private sector led agricultural development where local agro-dealers participate in the procurement of agricultural inputs to the farmers within their area of operation. This will remove government extension staff from directly getting involved in distribution of inputs and allow them to focus on provision of extension services,” said David Mwesigwa, FAO Emergency and Resilience Coordinator in Lesotho.