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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2016 Malawi: Malawi Social Cash Transfer Programme Endline Impact Evaluation Report

Author: Sara Abdoulayi, Gustavo Angeles, Clare Barrington, Kristen Brugh, Sudhanshu Handa, Kelly Kilburn, Adria Molotsky, Frank Otchere, Susannah Zietz

Executive summary

With the aim to continuously improve transparency and use of evaluation, UNICEF Evaluation Office manages the "Global Evaluation Reports Oversight System (GEROS)". Within this system, an external independent company reviews and rates all evaluation reports. The quality rating scale for evaluation reports is as follows: “Highly Satisfactory”, “Satisfactory”, “Fair” or “Unsatisfactory”. You will find the link to the quality rating below, labelled as ‘Part 2’ of the report, and the executive feedback summary labelled as 'Part 3'.


The Government of Malawi’s (GoM’s) SCTP (locally known as the Mtukula Pakhomo) is an unconditional cash transfer programme targeted to ultra-poor, labour-constrained households. The programme began as a pilot in Mchinji district in 2006. Since 2009, the programme has expanded to reach 18 out of 28 districts in Malawi. The programme has experienced impressive growth beginning in 2012, and most notably over the last two years. By December 2015, the SCTP had reached over 163,000 beneficiary households.

The SCTP is administered by the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare (MoGCDSW) with additional policy oversight provided by the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development (MoFEPD). UNICEF Malawi provides technical support and guidance. Funding for the programme from 2007-2012 was largely provided by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund). In 2011, the German Government (through Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, or KfW) and the GoM signed an agreement to provide substantial funding for paying arrears in existing areas.  In 2013, Irish Aid signed an agreement to expand into one new district, and in 2014, KfW and the European Union (EU) topped-up donor contributions to enable full coverage in the seven existing districts, as well as scale-up into eight additional districts. Also in 2014, GoM launched a “government-funded” district (Thyolo) and the World Bank committed to providing resources to expand into two additional districts. The SCTP was launched in these 11 newly funded districts starting in mid-2014 through early 2015. Bringing coverage to 18 districts.


This evaluation was requisitioned in order to measure impacts on a number of key indicators through a larger-scale evaluation.
There are four broad research areas for evaluation: 1) Welfare impact on children and their caretakers, 2) Behaviour change within the household, 3) Access to and linkages with other social services , and 4) Impact on the familial environment for children. The objectives of the evaluation are to answer the following key questions on these topics:

  1. Does the SCTP improve consumption, reduce food insecurity and increase diet diversity?
  2. Does the SCTP affect economic productivity and wealth accumulation?
  3. Does the SCTP affect health and nutrition of young children?
  4. Does the SCTP affect schooling and child labour among older children?
  5. Does the SCTP affect the safe transition into adulthood among youth?
  6. Does the SCTP affect the health and well-being of caregivers?


The impact evaluation for Malawi’s SCTP uses a mixed methods, longitudinal, experimental study design, combining quantitative surveys, qualitative interviews and group discussions, and simulation models to demonstrate wider community economic impacts.  The quantitative survey design consists of a cluster-randomized longitudinal study with baseline surveys (household, community and business) which began in July 2013 and two follow -up surveys (household and community) – the midline survey was conducted starting in November 2014 and the endline survey was conducted starting in October 2015.

Findings and Conclusions:

The midline impact evaluation, which was based on six transfer payments (or one year’s worth of payments) to SCTP households, showed small positive impacts in selected domains, and impacts were concentrated amongst the poorest households. Twelve months later, with an additional six payments, the SCTP appears to have transformed the lives of beneficiaries. Results from the evaluation now show strong impacts across almost all major domains and among all households, not just among the very poorest.
Economic productivity and asset accumulation: The SCTP has had noticeable impacts on the ownership of both agricultural and non-agricultural assets.  The endline impact of MWK174 on agricultural asset expenditure represents more than 80 per cent of the baseline expenditure of MWK211.

Health and nutrition of young children: Compared to household economic and consumption impacts, the impacts on young child health and nutrition are less pronounced. Part of the challenge here is that SCTP households actually have relatively few children under the age of five, given their unique demographic structure.

Schooling and child labour: We find strong effects of the program on children’s school participation across all age ranges. These effects do not merely reflect increased enrolment, but increased regular participation in school.
Safe transition to adulthood: The evaluation study includes a novel module administered to young people between the ages of 13-19 (at baseline, 15-22 at endline), to understand their health, well-being and transition to adulthood.
Well-being of care-givers: The final programme objective is to improve the well-being of caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children. We find that the programme has had a significant positive impact on their physical health, with a 6 pp reduction in morbidity, a 12 pp increase in the use of curative care, and an 11 per cent reduction in stress along with a 22 per cent increase in perceived quality of life.


The results of the evaluation point to several areas for future work or programme and policy action which we list here for consideration.

The SCTP targeting criteria (ultra-poor and labour constrained) leads to a unique profile of beneficiaries, households with elderly caring for orphans. Very few households have pre-school children, a group that is typically one of the most vulnerable in society. Several countries in Africa that target in a similar fashion to the SCTP have taken explicit action to reach households with pre-school children and to enhance the effect of their program on young child nutrition (Ghana, Ethiopia). These experiences might be of interest to government and partners in Malawi as the country seeks to build a comprehensive social safety net.

Though there are large and impressive impacts on schooling, there is also a potentially negative effect on child labour and engagement in hazardous work. This issue could be explored in further qualitative work to understand whether it is indeed a problem, and how it can be mitigated.

The value of the transfer is a crucial determinant of positive program impacts. With steady inflation in Malawi, this value is constantly eroding. The Ministry may want to consider appointing an independent review board to periodically review the value of the transfer against inflation and provide a recommendation for increases to ensure the program continues to meet its objectives.

Two issues stand out from the analysis of program implementation. First, wait times for beneficiaries to collect their payments are long. And second, many beneficiaries believe there are conditions associated with the cash transfer, and it was revealed during the end-line workshop that many district social welfare officers purposely tell beneficiaries about conditions which do not in fact exist. Clear program rules and expectations could be provided to beneficiaries to ensure they understand their rights. 

Full report in PDF

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Report information





Social Policy (Cross-cutting)

Center for Social Research, University of Malawi


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