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Slicing poverty step by step

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By Isaac Salima:

TRANSFORMED – Thamangira and his wife in the field

Situated in the southern part of Mulanje District, Kacherenga Village is just like any other ordinary village. A throw of eyes around the village will catch the traditional grass-thatched houses with isolated iron-roofed ones, all synonymous with village life.

It is Friday morning and at exactly 8:25, we arrive in the village. Upon seeing our vehicle from a distance, a group of women rush to welcome us while singing.

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We are in the village to appreciate how a project being implemented by Community Savings and Investment Promotion (Comsip) and Financial Access for Rural Markets, Smallholder and Enterprise (Farmse) has transformed lives of poor people in the area.

The three-year Building Sustainable Livelihoods for Ultra-Poor project is being implemented with the aim of improving food security, economic resilience, nutrition and health status and housing structures of poor farmers.

Kenson Thamangira has been a subsistence farmer for as long as he can remember. With a huge responsibility of taking care of children and grandchildren weighing heavily on his shoulders, life has been tough for him. Luckily, he was picked as a beneficiary of the Social Cash Transfer programme.

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However, the K19,500 he receives from the programme every two months has been far from meeting the needs of his family. This has seen him engaging in other activities in the struggle to put food on his family’s table.

But now, Thamangira’s story is different as he is a model in the whole village after investing the money in farming. He says when he received the K19,500 in November, he bought goats and used to get manure for his quarter-acre crop field. This was all through the training he had undergone through the project.

“Previously, when I received the money, I was using it for to buy other household needs but Comsip taught us how best we can invest the money to benefit us in future. It is when we were trained in climate-smart agriculture which promotes the use of manure and modern farming technologies. And this year, I expect to have a good harvest after putting that into practice,” Thamangira says.

OUT TO APPRECIATE – Officials visit Thamangira’s field

Thamangira is one of the beneficiaries of the project whose lives have been transformed for the better. Through the project, Comsip has been spearheading the formation of cluster groups where members have been encouraged to embrace a saving culture to transform their livelihoods.

Thamangira is a member of Mwaiwathu Savings Group, which is under Chizu Cluster.

The members meet twice a month where they contribute a certain amount of money which forms the group’s capital. The money is also loaned out to some members who repay it with interest.

Agnes Aironi from Kapesi Village, Traditional Authority Mabusa, said she has immensely benefited from the group.

“We contribute money for savings and we also provide loans to some members. We have a vision that by 2022 we will have saved at least K6 million,” Aironi says.

The group started in November last year and by now, has raised K414,000 in savings and about K389,000 has been loaned out to members. The members are supposed to pay back the money within three months.

Another member Charles Moffat says his view about investing has completely changed.

“When you see friends engaging in small businesses, you follow suit and at the end business becomes part of you. This is exactly what happened to me. I joined the group after being coaxed by a friend but now I have bought three goats and I have opened a small shop,” Moffat says.

On the day of our visit, officials from International Agricultural Development (Ifad), Comsip and Farmse interacted with members of some cluster groups.

Comsip Chief Executive Officer, Tennyson Gondwe, says he was happy with progress of the project.

“The project has just begun and we are pleased with what we have seen. However, we are not happy with low participation of men. We encourage more men to take part in cluster groups in order for them transform their lives economically,” Gondwe says.

Farmse Programme Coordinator, Dixon Ngwende, says he is satisfied that the project is yielding results.

“Farmers were testifying how technical advice on climate smart agriculture has helped them to have good harvest this year. This is encouraging because there is hope that we will achieve our goals,” Ngwende says.

Ifad senior regional specialist for rural finance, markets and enterprises from Nairobi office, Sauli Hurri, says despite the project being in its infancy, there are promising signs that it will deliver.

“So far, so good. We cannot make conclusions at this stage but the future looks good,” Hurri says.

The project is being implemented in Mulanje and Phalombe districts targeting almost 37,500 ultra-poor households on Social Cash Transfer.

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