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Graduating Malawi’s poor households out of poverty

Written by  Joel Chiheni Phiri

The tale of one Christina Samson, 35 from Mangochi was until recently a story of difficulty and challenge. In her own words, she was stuck in poverty, doing casual labour to feed her children.

Christina Samuel (R) chats with Concern Worldwide staff Christina Samuel (R) chats with Concern Worldwide staff

With help from Concern Worldwide, Samson has renewed hope for the future.

“I have used the recent cash transfer to buy maize and other basic necessities for my family. I want to build a better house and see my children attaining education, get jobs and live independently,” she said.

Concern Worldwide has since last year been implementing a programme to deal with household poverty in two districts of Mangochi and Nsanje.

Samson is not the only beneficiary of the programme by Concern Worldwide to eradicate household poverty. Hawa Idi from Kwalipo in Mangochi is also one of the people who are reaping the benefits of the programme in Mangochi.

38 year–old Idi said in an interview recently that her household’s fortune has completely changed since Concern Worldwide begun implementing the programme in 2017.

“This programme is changing lives here. Before the implementation of this programme here in Mangochi, my household had no source of income as we had no business to run due to lack of capital. But Concern Worldwide has provided us with a start-up capital which I have managed to open a mini shop for assorted groceries. I hope to build a brick house with iron sheets in the future,” said Idi.

Concern Worldwide is implementing a programme called Graduation and Resilient Livelihoods in Nsanje and Mangochi. The programme targets the extreme poor people and households in these districts and through a mix daily consumption, business skills training, mentoring and assets or cash transfer.

Samson and Idi are proud beneficiaries of this programme which is currently reaching out to 200 households in the two districts but will have reached out to a total of 2000 households in the coming year.

The programme aims to support the beneficiaries to sustainably graduate into higher wealth brackets and to be self-sufficient beyond the lifetime of the programme. The programme is funded by contributions from Irish Aid, Unicef and Accenture.

Participants at the stakeholders meeting

Recently Concern Worldwide organised a stakeholders meeting in Lilongwe to share successes of the programme with representatives from government, development partners, UN agencies and non-government organisations. At the meeting, government hailed the programme for addressing household poverty in the country.

Deputy Director of Poverty Reduction and Social Protection in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and Development Dalitso Kalimba commended the Graduation Programme for its contribution towards the aims of the Malawi National Social Support Programme II (MNSSPII).

Kalimba said government values the work that Concern Worldwide is carrying out to eradicate poverty at households’ level and ensure households are able to rise out of grinding poverty in villages and rural areas.

The Livelihoods and Resilience Coordinator Chris Mjima explained that the programme is designed to graduate people out of poverty. He said the programme approach is to identify extreme poor and poor households and then provide them with consumption support through cash transfer of K15,000 per month accompanied by business skills and training, mentoring and larger cash or asset transfer they should use to start up their businesses to create sustainable sources of income.

Mjima said the programme aims to target 2000 household to graduate from extreme poverty and 6000 households under an enabling environment component.

The enabling environment component, according to Mjima, involves promoting a community–wide approach to addressing problems which affect all poor people in the community.

Reporting on the lessons learnt from the first year of implementing the Graduation Programme, Akunsitu Kananji, Programme Manager for Concern Worldwide in Nsanje, observed that, ‘Community participation is key for project acceptance, while physical household verification helped to ensure targeted households met the criteria of being extreme poor or poor’.

Kananji also noted that, ‘involvement of district government and community stakeholders is key to better targeting, and inclusive targeting has improved the participation of individuals with a disability in the programme’.

The Deputy Director of Poverty Reduction and Social Protection, MoFEPD, pointed out some of the challenges the programme might face, including the high levels of poverty prevalence here in Malawi which often leads to inclusion and exclusion criteria being arbitrary, leaving eligible households excluded from programmes.

On the economic environment, he noted the Government aims to touch on all aspects of poverty, recognising the multidimensional aspects of poverty and the need for a realistic and holistic approach.

On behalf of Gideon Kachingwe, Chief Social Welfare Officer for the Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP) under the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Chifundo Nanchunkwa gave the closing remarks where she commended Concern Worldwide for the work conducted under the Graduation Programme.

Nanchukwa pointed out that Ministry of Gender is interested in the progress of the Graduation Programme and seeing the value it can bring for poor households during implementation. She concluded by saying she hopes for increased collaboration and engagement with the programme.

As the fortunes of Samson and Idi change for the better through the Graduation programme, one only hopes for the continual progression of the programme so as to benefit more people.

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