Moving out of poverty thanks to the Social Cash Transfer Programme

Changing lives of vulnerable people through SCTP

By Gregory Gondwe
Eliza James with her son outside their home in Balaka
UNICEF Malawi/2020/Amos Gumulira
10 December 2020

By September 2021 Eliza James, a 48-year-old mother of nine, will be a proud owner of a herd of goats. No one can dismiss her dreams, going by what she has achieved so far, ever since she became a beneficiary of Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP).

Since 2019 when UNICEF engaged Community Savings and Investment Promotion (COMSIP) Cooperative Union to work with beneficiaries in Balaka and Ntcheu districts, under the Programme, Eliza says she has been freed from a poverty trap.

“In 2004, I lost my husband who was the family’s bread winner at the time when my last-born child was only six months old. From there on, life was  hopeless,” she reminiscents.

But through the Enhanced Village Savings and Loans (VSLA) for Building Resilience for the SCTP Beneficiaries Project, she has managed to turn her life around.

The benefits for Eliza are countless; she has managed to buy pigs to kickstart her piggery farming, she has also used part of the savings from the proceeds of her monthly Social Cash Transfer Programme to build her house. She has also invested in the education of both her children and grandchildren.

Initially, she used to receive an average of K8,000 a month through the programme. Since July 2020, when government revised regular monthly entitlements, she now receives K12,000 which was being consumed as fast as it came.

When she was taught about village banks by COMSIP, she got motivated and started contributing K3,000 a month towards her village bank savings.

Eliza giving water to her pigs that she bought through VSL
UNICEF Malawi/2020/Amos Gumulira
Eliza giving water to her pigs that she bought through VSL

Before, SCTP beneficiaries used to receive monthly payments but it now takes three months before receiving the money as authorities are strictly adhering to corona virus preventive measures that discourages large meetings.

“The lump sum that comes after three months is also a blessing in disguise as it helps us to make good use of the money without cutting down on other needs,” explains Eliza who belongs to Nkaya Zone in Traditional Authority Nkaya in Balaka.

Eliza and others from her zone are beneficiaries of a Government of Ireland two-year long funding through UNICEF aimed at providing technical support in the design, evidence generation and implementation of the Social Cash Transfer Programme in Balaka and Ntcheu districts targeting 22,831 households. 

Balaka District Social Welfare Officer Limbani Chibwana explains that before introducing the VSLA to Social Cash Transfer Programme beneficiaries, the community had little knowledge of finance management.

“This made communities overlook the power of saving, investing and of course budgeting, leading to increase of poverty as their major reliance was on handouts from government and other private sectors,” observes Chibwana.

With VSLA however, the initiative has not only opened eyes of many, but it has also helped communities to identify their potential.

Beneficiaries like Eliza have demonstrated this potential by starting livestock farming.

“We have seen several other beneficiaries in different communities  using the money they receive to engage into income generating activities in several areas such as; irrigation agriculture, animal husbandry while some have ventured into businesses,” explains Chibwana who acknowledges that this has decreased the number of cases visiting their District Social Welfare offices to seek for assistance.

“Most communities used to come to ask our office to help them with school fees as many were unable to provide education needs for their children, but now they are using resources accrued from their different investment ventures to help themselves,” he illuminates.

Going by what Eliza and her colleagues within Nkaya zone are doing, September next year might even be very far away before she becomes a proud owner of goats that will complement her piggery undertaking that will set her to a path of an independent life free from  poverty and misery.