Mchinji, February 18: Life could have never been the same for73 year old Onolina Abram of Traditional Authority (TA) Mlonyeni in Mchinji had it not been for the help she gets from Social cash Transfer scheme.
Abram, a widow, with no means of generating money, keeps five grandchildren whose parents her biological children died and left her with no option but to look after the grandchildren alone.
Abram says the social cash transfer scheme which government implements has helped her in a number of ways a number of ways among them are paying school fees for the children and buying food for them.
“Since I was put on the social cash transfer scheme my life has been easier than before the scheme was introduced to my village, I keep my grandchildren whose parents died some years back and without the scheme it could have been a disaster, I couldn’t even afford their school fees,” she said.
She added, “I have two grand children who are now in secondary school at Gillime the other one is in form two and another in form four, I pay their fees using the money I get from the scheme and some piece works I do,” she said.
Abram is one of the beneficiaries of the Social Cash Transfer scheme a government effort which aims at helping the ultra poor in the country.
Through the scheme, she receives K2400 every month. She has a household of more than 5 people.
Even though Abram boosts of transformation in her life because of the money given to her, she however, complains that the money is not enough considering the economic changes now.
She said ever since the scheme started, she has been receiving K2400 and now that things are expensive, it is hard to spend the money correctly.
“I think it is good for government to increase the transfers so that we can have enough money, the money we are receiving is a little considering the fact that I have to also pay for school fees for my grandchildren in secondary school.
Maybe if government could also think about introducing bursaries to the children, what will I do if they are selected to college with the little money I get,” she said.
Social cash transfers have been running for the past seven years since its first inception in 2006 and have proved to be a life saver for the poor and Abram has been in the scheme since the inception of the programme as no retargeting to provide room for other beneficiaries was done.
The beneficiaries get money ranging from K600 in a household of one person, K1000 in a household of two people, K1400 in a household of three people and K1800 in a household of more than five beneficiaries.
Agreeing with Abram are other beneficiaries to the programme and even some people who have been involved in the programme in Mchinji. They have also called on government to consider increasing transfers in the ongoing social cash transfer project as government through the Mchinji district social welfare office announced the retargeting process for next beneficiaries and seeing the impact of the programme.
Chairlady for Chankanga Social Cash Transfer Programme in TA Kapondo in the district, Monica Leta said it is pathetic that people receive the same monies since 2006 yet living standards have gone up.
“Everything is now expensive because of devaluation, when they are saying they are retargeting, I think they should also increase the monies, the programme is good but the money is small,” said Leta.
Mchinji District Social Welfare Officer Rodwell Chunga announced recently during a stakeholders meeting that his office is going to start a retargeting process to see who still needs to be in the programme and who needs to be left out and who should be included.
Chunga said the programme has proved to be very important and helpful as poverty levels for the beneficiaries has improved and also school enrollment and nutrition levels have improved in the district.
“We would like to announce that this year starting the second week of November, we would like to start retargeting to accommodate new beneficiaries and see where to improve.
We were supposed to do the retargeting after every two years but failed due to some hiccups in the programme, but now we are going to do the retargeting and measure the impact as the programme has proved to be a success,” he said.
Social Cash Transfer Desk Officer for Mchinji Jim Wotchi told Mana that the retargeting will also affect the programme that government recently announced that it wanted to change the payment system for the beneficiaries from manual to electronic by first November this year.
He said the e-payment system will delay a bit waiting for the retargeting to find out who needs to be included in the e-payment system.
Government through the Ministry of Gender and Social Welfare in conjunction with Airtel Malawi, OIBM, Save the children Malawi, Save the Children UK, Oxford Policy Management and University of Malawi recently decided to work hand in hand in the new e-payment system.
The aim was to reduce workload at the district level since some work was suffering because the officers who were supposed to be doing the work were also busy paying beneficiaries in the field according to Wotchi.
“The first e-payment was supposed to be on the first of this month but because the retargeting has delayed that means we will do this next year as the retargeting will finish in April next year,” said Wotchi.
The pilot e-payment system will be cofunded by the European Union and the German Bank for Reconstruction (KFW) for a period of three years.
Social cash transfers main aim is to reduce poverty in the country especially to the ultra poor, increase school enrollment and improve nutritional status of people.
Currently the programme in Mchinji has contributed to an increased school enrollment with five percent. Improved the nutritional status and has reduced child labour in the district by 10 percent.