Leading cash transfer beneficiaries to independence

Cecelia Manjolo was in destitution alongside her children following the death of her husband in 2015 since he was the only breadwinner in the house.

Fred Kazombo, BSLUP Project Manager. Pic Tikondane Vega (Mana)
Cecilia Manjolo, a social cash transfer beneficiary being targeted by BSLUP project. Pic Tiondane Vega (Mana)
Tenneyson Gondwe, Chief Executive Officer for COMSIP. Pic Tikondane Vega (Mana)

Life became unbearable and she scarcely had food or school fees for her children.

“The death of my husband left a huge gap to the extent that I was relying on well-wishers for food and other basic necessities.

“It was not easy to survive and only God knew where our next meal would come from,” says Manjolo, beaming with pride.

Luckily, she was later selected as a beneficiary of Mtukula Pakhomo, unconditional cash transfer targeting ultra-poor, labour-constrained households like her.

“This was a turning point in my life; I started receiving K17, 000 every month.

“The money is helping me a lot to buy food and pay school fees for my children,” says Manjolo, who now invests part of the money in various ventures.

“As I am talking, I have built a house and I have livestock,” she adds.

Manjolo, 58, is among 8,118 people in Phalombe who are receiving money through government’s Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP) also known as Mtukula Pakhomo aimed at reducing poverty and increasing school enrolment.

SCTP has proved to be worthwhile as a recent publication titled Realising the Full Potential of Social Safety Nets in Africa, quotes the World Bank as putting Malawi’s SCTP among five programmes with significant impact.

However, other schools of thought attribute the success to heavy dependence on donors, casting fears it may not be sustained once the donors decide to reduce or stop funding.

The critics wonder what would happen to the life of Manjolo and others who solely rely on SCTP for their living if donors stop contributing towards the programme.

In response, government through Community Savings and Investment Promotion (COMSIP) embarked on a three-year project from 2019 to 2021 dubbed Building Sustainable Livelihoods for Ultra-poor (BSLUP).

BSLUP is being implemented in Phalombe and Mulanje districts as a graduation transition for SCTP beneficiaries like Manjolo with an aim of building sustainable livelihoods in case of any eventuality such as donor fatigue.

Project Manager for BSLUP in Mulanje and Phalombe Fred Kazombo says in contrast to administrative graduation where beneficiaries are removed from the cash transfers, the programme would like to change people’s socio-economic status.

“We recognise that donors might get tired one day and stop supporting Mtukula Pakhomo and the programme is preparing beneficiaries of any eventuality and start to think outside the box.

“Through the project, COMSIP has lined up tasks such as group and savings mobilisation, mindset change, accumulation of productive assets, nutrition and health support,” Kazombo says.

COMSIP’s Chief Executive Officer Tenneyson Gondwe says SCTP beneficiaries have the potential to graduate through the organisation’s Village Savings and Loans groups.

“Through the village savings and loans groups, members are able to re-invest their profits into small-scale businesses for their survival.

“This means even SCTP beneficiaries can also use the money to invest in small-scale businesses and that should Mtukula Pakhomo stop, they can still stand and move on with life” Gondwe says.

A 2012 Malawi Integrated Household Survey indicates that 50.7 per cent of the population lives in poverty by national standards and 24.5 per cent of them are considered to be ultra-poor.

To this effect, BSLUP creates opportunities for community members like Manjolo to save and invest in attempt to enable them graduate, improve and increase household incomes.

Again, SCTP is in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which more than 150 world leaders, including Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika, adopted at UN headquarters in New York on September 29, 2015.

“With respect to the SDGs, we are going to end goal number one on poverty alleviation with specific targets.

“We know 80 per cent of the population live in rural areas and they are our farmers who produce all the crops. So, we are going to make sure that they are able to make income from their produce,” Mutharika said.

“We are also going to introduce…the cash transfer so that people can be using it to pay school fees and in other productive activities like farming,” added the Malawi leader in his address to the UN general assembly.

Mutharika was optimistic that the beneficiaries will in future become financially independent as they would be in a position to generate their own money.

“The beneficiaries will in future not be in need of money through those programmes as they will be able to generate their own. However, all this cannot be achieved in a day,” he said.

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