By Aliko Munde
While some Social Cash Transfer Programme beneficiaries spend all the money on food, Zikwenda Mphande has been saving and investing it in fixed assets to fulfill his dream of becoming financially independent.
Mphande, 57, from Fwayafwaya Village in Traditional Authority (TA) Timbiri in Nkhata Bay now lives in a decent four bed-roomed house courtesy of the safety net programme targeting the ultra-poor.
“I had been living in a grass-thatched house which sometimes leaked during rainy season for years.
“So, when I was listed as a beneficiary of the programme, I discussed with my wife to invest part of the money and build a better house,” Mphande says.
Due to some technical hiccups, Mphande did not receive his monthly stipend for seven months.
“It was a blessing in disguise as we later received money amounting to K56,000. We agreed to build a bigger house because the one we had was too small for a family of 13.
“We used the K56,000 to pay a bricklayer,” Mphande says.
Mphande’s wife, Dolasi Nyamwase, chips in and says after building the house, the family started buying iron sheets from the monthly K8,000 stipend until they managed to buy 37 32-gauge iron sheets.
From this rainy season, the family is no longer living in a house whose roof leaks courtesy of the Social Cash Transfer Programme.
“We are remaining with plastering and flooring. We hope government will increase the monthly stipend to enable us to buy cement and complete the house within a few months,” Nyamwase says.
To multiply the money received from the programme, Mphande says he joined Tigwilizane Village Bank which has 21 members comprising eight men and 13 women.
“We meet weekly and every member brings a minimum share of K200. But most of the times I share K500 and if the meeting coincides with social cash transfer payments, I share even K5,000,”Mphande says.
He says the village bank is good because it enables the family to save and multiply the money it gets from the programme.
“Soon we are going to share dividends and I want to buy cement to floor our house,” Mphande says.
Meanwhile, Mphande is also into cassava farming and commercial mat making. He attributes all the initiatives to the programme saying it opened up his eyes to always think about how to make money.
“I salute government for introducing the programme; it is uplifting lives of many people.
“We used to eat one meal a day but now we are able to eat three meals.
“My children and grandchildren no longer go to school on an empty stomach and have started doing well in class,” Mphande says.
His success story is in line with the programme’s objective to economically empower ultra-poor families.
The programme was introduced to fulfill Sustainable Development Goal II which is to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
A 2016-2017 Integrated Household Survey Report states that 50.7 percent of Malawi’s population lives below the poverty line and 25 percent are in extreme poverty.
The survey’s findings are not surprising as the country ranks so low on the World Human Development Index at 170 out of 188 countries and territories.
In its quest to savage the situation, Malawi Government embarked on the various social support programmes targeting a diverse range of beneficiaries.
As some initiatives target strong and energetic community members others, such as the Social Cash Transfer Programme, are only meant for ultra-poor and labour-constraint households.
The programme is under Malawi Social Action Fund (Masaf)-IV and has been in existence for 12 years. It was initially piloted in selected districts until 2018 when it spread to the rest of the country.
Many beneficiaries of the safety net initiatives like social cash transfer and Productive Public Works Programme have success stories to tell.
Some have acquired household items like furniture and electric appliances while others rear livestock such as pigs and goats which have improved livelihoods.
The programme, which is being financed by the World Bank through the National Local Government Finance Committee (NLGFC), formerly Local Development Fund, started in February 2015 in all Nkhata Bay’s 13 TAs.
“The main objective of this programme is to alleviate poverty and hunger in the targeted households,” says the district’s Social Cash Transfer Coordinator Abel Ndhlovu.
“We also look at improving health, nutrition and education conditions of children living in those households,” adds Ndhlovu, who is also Principal Social Welfare Officer.
He concurs with Nyamwase saying the money given to beneficiaries is not enough to meet high economic costs as a household on average receives K7,500 per month.
“Even the number of households benefiting from the programme [in Nkhata Bay] is low as currently we have 5,603 households.
“The other challenge has to do with money transfers; it takes months for the households to receive their money which affects savings for those who joined village banks,” Ndhlovu says.
NLGFC’s Nkhata Bay District Projects Officer Eric Jelenje says Mphande’s achievement is impressive and calls on other beneficiaries who just receive and spend the money on consumables to start investing as well.
“Mphande’s family deserves a pat on the back. Others should learn from it and start saving and investing to make more money.
“I encourage the beneficiaries to join savings and investment groups in their communities which are given grants and business training under Masaf-IV’s Livelihood and Skills Development component,” Jelenje says. —Mana