Written by Enock Balakasi
It takes a long and winding road to reach Group Village Headman Ngunda in the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Kasumbu in Dedza District.
To reach the village it takes a person at least 28 kilometers from Dedza boma. What impresses me along the way was nature’s beauty of natural trees around the area despite high levels of deforestation in most areas across the country.
Still in fairyland, I find myself in Ngunda Village in midst of villagers who flocked from different directions.
While in the village, one woman approaches me and narrates and testifies what Social Cash Transfers program has done to her life.
Esnart Asidi 75, says it all began in 2016 when officials from Dedza District Council was registering beneficiaries for a Social Cash Transfer Programme in the area and she was identified as one of the beneficiaries forEsnart is widow and she lives with her daughter Akwamala Asidi aged 21, her granddaughter Miriam is 12 years as well as Allena Asidi 11 years old.
It is late afternoon standing outside her house taking care of maize which is the staple food in Malawi, while she recounts how being part of the transfer programme changed her life.
“I used to live in dire conditions. I could not afford buying my own food during lean period and other necessities. Now, with the money I receive every month, I do manage to buy grandchildren school uniforms and can pay for their school fees. Miriam wants to become a nurse and Asidi a teacher… and now I can help make those dreams into reality.”
Esnart is just one of many examples of the positive impacts of cash transfers in the country. For a household to become eligible, they must meet certain criteria which include location of residence, proportion of household members of working age that are fit to work and welfare levels.
The Malawi Social Action Fund (MASAF) IV Programme is funded by the World Bank to the tune of US$ 75 Million is providing productive safety nets to elderly and vulnerable households through cash transfers while some beneficiaries participate in public works programmes.
According to available data from the District Council indicates that Dedza has 15 750 targeted households out of which 11 381 are female headed, 4000 males headed and 142 children headed households in the 3-year project running from 2015 – 2018
The transfer levels have been reviewed to an average of K4, 500 per household per month based on the cost of living. The initial figures are 1 person household (K1, 000), 2 persons household (K 1,500), 3 persons household (K1, 950), 4+ persons household (K2, 400). Educational bonus, is for those with enrolled primary school children (K300) per child and enrolled secondary school children (K800) per child.
The programme impacted not only the direct beneficiaries but also the communities they live in.
Meanwhile, Group Village Headman Ngunda concurred with many beneficiaries that the project is addressing the levels of poverty for his subjects since its commencement.
However, he urged government to reach out to more people considering the worsening poverty in his area. “I appeal to government to increase the number of beneficiaries of the socio cash transfer because the ones who are accessing it now are less than the demand on the ground” pleaded Ngunda.
Desk Officer for the Socio Cash Transfer at Dedza District Council Given Mukisi has hailed the role the programme has played in improving livelihoods of rural communities in the district.
Among others Mukisi cited people’s ability to buy households assets, food and being able to send children to school with uniform as some of the notable achievements in the programme.
“Some they have gone into business while others they’re just saving the money in the Community Savings and Investment Promotion COMSIP, at the end when they’ll be sharing their shares and be able to start some businesses or buy something” said Mukisi.She said about K2 Billion has so far been disbursed out to beneficiaries in the district.
Despite these successes, Mukisi said the program is facing challenges such as inadequate transport for the cash distributions exercise and FDH Bank’s failure to handle daily cash requirements for both socio cash transfers and public works programmes which hindering effective implementation of the programme.
MASAF IV project became effective on 16th September 2014 and will be implemented in a period of four years. The project is expected to directly benefit approximately 752,960 poor households through cash transfers for productive community driven public works, social cash transfers and livelihoods. The project is being implemented through the Local Development Fund (LDF) mechanism at a district level.