Dalitso Kachingwe, a widowed mother of five school-going children in Mwenda Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Kambwiri in Salima District, has been a beneficiary of the Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP) since 2015.
But Kachingwe, 42, did not save any portion of the money to invest. As a result, the family grew even more dependent on the programme.
“We spent all the money on basic needs without regard for investing in the future. But as time went, we discovered that our condition was getting even worse,” she said.
The government and its development partners developed social protection mechanisms, including the social cash transfer scheme, to address poverty and vulnerability, especially with priority focused on child and female-headed families.
Such schemes have born observable advantages in improving health of beneficiaries, improving food security, increasing school enrollment rates and reducing child labour.
They have also played a crucial role in enhancing productivity of beneficiary households and communities through accumulation of productive assets and livestock.
However, there are still a majority of child and female-headed households who continue to wallow in abject poverty despite being on the social cash transfer scheme for years.
This is because child and female-headed households tend to be most susceptible to poverty because they have fewer income opportunities to provide adequate financial support within the household.
Other studies have pointed out that marital status (divorced or widowed), education, and race correlate strongly with levels of poverty for single mothers.
Additionally, a stock take of initiatives implemented with the primary goal of reducing poverty and vulnerability in Malawi, uncovered that a number of factors contribute to the poor performance of these policy interventions.
Amongst the critical ones were lack of capacity of the implementing partners, particularly government institutions at the district and lower levels.
In addition, several studies point out to the fact that most of these policies are imposed on the host nation by development partners as a precondition to access foreign aid.
These policies were thus adopted with a one size fits all approach as they were imposed on different developing countries regardless of their diverse political, social and economic backgrounds.
In a somewhat departure from the above approach, government devised a seven-year development programme, Financial Access for Rural Markets, Smallholders and Enterprises (Farmse), to act as an exit strategy for social protection and safety net interventions.
Farmse is a seven-year development programme financed by the Malawi Government, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the private sector, and it runs from 2018 to 2025.
Farmse Knowledge Management and Communications Officer, Golie Nyirenda, says the programme works to support the graduation of poor Malawians along the poverty spectrum from ultra-poor to a productive pathway on a sustainable basis.
It also supports household economic development through access to financial services that are appropriate to each socio-economic level of poverty including ultra-poor, poor but food secure, vulnerable to poverty, and resilient to poverty.
“The goal of the programme is to reduce poverty, improve livelihoods and enhance the resilience of rural households on a sustainable basis. It further seeks to increase access to, and use of, a range of sustainable financial services by rural households and micro, small, and medium enterprises,” she disclosed.
Care International Malawi is one of the partners of the Farmse and is currently implementing a 36-month-old project called Tidzidalire in Chikwawa and Salima districts.
Farmse is contributing close to K1.3 billion towards the project, according to Nyirenda.
Care International Malawi District Coordinator Gerald Kossam says the project is focusing on the promoting of food security, agriculture, health, education, and social and economic empowerment, especially for women.
“We are targeting 1, 850 ultra-poor households in Chikwawa and another 1, 850 households in Salima, with 20 percent of the beneficiaries being the youth. Our ultimate goal is to increase market linkages, promote diversified livelihoods, organize Village Savings and Loan Associations and provide entrepreneurship training,” Kossam explained.
He added that through its existing partnership with Farmse, Care International Malawi is providing Economic Activity Selection, Planning and Management (EASPM) training, building capacities in financial literacy and financial education to the ultra-poor households.
“We also link project participants to formal financial service providers; provide startup capital to the ultra-poor households and engage market actors in collaborative marketing dialogue,” Kossam narrated.
Kachingwe is one of the beneficiaries of the Tidzidalire Project in Salima.
After undergoing a series of training in financial literacy, she embarked on a journey, which she believes will take her to economic independence.
Kachingwe emphasized that the financial literacy training she underwent has equipped her with the knowledge and skills she needed to manage the money her family receives from SCTP effectively.
“I am now able to save from my earnings and invest in some businesses, including gruel (sweet beer or thobwa in local language). I could not be able to effectively manage the money without the training,” she said.
In less than two years, Kachingwe has already saved K125, 000 with her local VSLA in Group Village Head Kachitsa.
“I am working very hard to save enough money for my school-going children. I want to educate all my children to tertiary level and I am very upbeat that I will achieve my dream,” she said.
Tidzidalire Project seeks to support ultra-poor households to graduate out of poverty and enable them to become self-reliant and food secure.