Financial Access for Rural Markets, Smallholders and Enterprise (FARMSE) Programme successfully bailed out 15,700 ultra poor beneficiaries of the government’s social cash transfer, effectively leaving them doing various small-scale enterprises that make them self-reliant.
One of the beneficiaries is Verena Jeseni, 48, from Group Village Head Chikwatu in Traditional Authority (TA) Mgabu in Chikwawa District.
Jeseni, who has three children attending primary school, is into goat and pig farming, sells rice and pigeon peas, rears local chickens, ducks and doves. Her life changed for the better.
FARMSE is a nationwide development programme supporting household economic development through access to financial services that are appropriate to each socioeconomic level of poverty.
Under the programme, there is an intervention dubbed ultra poor graduation upscaling, which supports the ongoing government’s efforts in developing and delivering effective poverty graduation programmes in rural areas. It supports beneficiaries of social cash transfer to attain sustainable livelihoods.
Jeseni and other targeted beneficiaries across Malawi each received at least MK236,000 which they invested in businesses and improving their households, among other things.
Before receiving the money, the beneficiaries had already joined clusters where, among others, they continue acquiring business management skills, enabling them to run organized and beneficial small-scale enterprises. They also save and borrow money at their clusters village banks and other village banks in order to sustain their businesses.
In early 2021, Jeseni and 35 others formed Mtendere Cluster in TA Mgabu in Chikwawa, with assistance from Care Malawi International, FARMSE’s implementing partner.
Since joining the cluster, she has, among other important things, built for her family a new house. She looks forward to owning a bigger shop where she would sell all manner of foodstuffs.
“Life was tough before this intervention. Whatever we did for a living was disorganized, with too little gain. We now can afford all our needs. We are never hungry. I send my children to school, providing them with all the necessary education materials,” she said.
Another beneficiary Levesoni Joseph, 42, from Sam Village in TA Maseya in Chikwawa, also expresses her gratitude to FARMSE and Care Malawi International for transforming her life. She is among the 43 members of Nkudzi Cluster.
“I have goats and pigs that are multiplying. I can sell one or two anytime I want and use the money to buy other basic needs like foodstuffs. I managed to buy windows and iron sheets for my new house, which I started building way back and I was unable to finish it due to lack of money. I also have a huge amount of savings at the village bank,” she said.
Chairperson for Nkudzi Cluster, who is also an extension worker for Care Malawi International, Wellington Mentao, cherished working with the beneficiaries in the cluster and seeing them upscaling, graduating and becoming self-reliant.
However, Mentao said 90 percent of members in the cluster have really made it, attributing the failure of the other few to, among other factors, cyclones Anna and Gombe early this year, which swept away their belongings.
In Mtendere Cluster, according to Patrick Mkwezalamba, six failed, also largely due to cyclones Anna and Gombe.
FARMSE Ultra Poor Graduation Specialist, O’Brien Mandala, said the intervention began with 20,800 beneficiaries nationwide but 15,700 met indicators of the programme for graduation. However, Mandala said he is still impressed.
“We have done our part. Livelihoods have improved. These people had nothing. Now, some have good permanent houses with strong walls and roofs. Others have good businesses. They have basic needs and sending their children to school. They have been trained how to sustain these,” he said.
The intervention, according to Mandala, targeted 45 percent women and 25 percent youths. He said supporting more women will: “Make the benefits of the intervention reach out to more households and scale up even to children around the households”.