NAIROBI, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Kenya plans to begin distributing fertilizer subsidies to farmers using smartphones starting from 2020, a government official said on Tuesday.
Andrew Tuimur, chief administrative secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation, told journalists in Nairobi that currently the government imports about 150,000 tonnes of fertilizers that maize farmers can access at subsidized costs at the state-owned National Cereals and Produce Board depots.
"Beginning in 2020, we will reallocate the 5 billion shillings (about 500 million U.S. dollars) from procurement of fertilizer to a digital e-voucher system that will send vouchers directly to eligible farmers' mobile phones," said Tuimur.
He added that the digital subsidy program is targeting some 1.4 million small-scale farming households so that they can improve their incomes by about 40 percent over the next five years.
Tuimur added that the government will soon begin to register and screen all farmers for the subsidy eligibility.
He noted that the e-voucher system will allow selected farmers to use the e-voucher to purchase a range of agricultural inputs, including seed for high-value crops, animal feed and health products.
Tuimur observed that use of the digital system will enable the private sector to provide inputs to give farmers the option to spend their e-voucher in their local village.
The government is prioritizing the digital subsidy program because of its convenience as it eliminates the need for farmers to travel long distance to access the affordable agricultural inputs.