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Abstract

The introduction of the e-voucher approach to Zambia’s input subsidy program, the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP), was intended, inter alia, to improve farmers’ access to and use of modern inputs; incentivize private sector investment in fertilizer and other input value chains, thereby improving the timely availability of the inputs and bringing them closer to farmers; and encourage farmers to diversify away from maize by allowing them to use the e-voucher for the farm inputs or equipment of their choosing – not just maize seed and fertilizer. This study employs a difference- in-differences approach using Crop Forecast Survey (CFS) data from before and during the 2015/16 and 2016/17 e-FISP pilot years to empirically estimate the contemporaneous effects of the shift to the e-FISP from the traditional FISP on several of these outcomes. The results suggest that the e- FISP fell short of achieving many of its objectives, at least in the short-run and based on the outcomes that could be analyzed using the CFS data. At best, the outcomes analyzed were no different (in a statistically significant way) under the e-FISP and the traditional FISP; at worst, outcomes were worse under the e-FISP. These disappointing e-FISP results are likely due more to implementation challenges and lack of political will than to fundamental flaws in the e-FISP concept and design.

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