EMPOWERING HOUSEHOLDS WITH THE REAL MTUKULA PAKHOMO
By Horace Nyaka
“MTUKULA PAKHOMO PROJECT OKONDEDWA NAMBALA YANU YACHITA MWAYI OPATA NDALAMA ZOKWANA K280000.00 NGATI MUFUNA KUDZIWA ZAMBIRI IMBANI FONI PA (0994679812) (0995948860) KUTI MUTHANDIZIDWE NSANGA”. This is a common text message that has reached many people in the country. Some have lost money while trying to get their “Prize Money” from Mtukula Pakhomo. The scammers lure unsuspecting victims to send money as processing fees before getting the prizes.
The real Mtukula Pakhomo story is different. It is a programme that is supporting and transforming lives of people in poor households.
“Mtukula Pakhomo does not send SMS messages to our beneficiaries or any members of the public. Anyone receiving such messages should know that they are not from Mtukula Pakhomo and should report to the Police.” Says Laurent Kansinjiro, and Project Coordinator for Mtukula Pakhomo who is also Deputy Director of Social Welfare in the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare.
While fraudsters are using the fake Mtukula Pakhomo to steal money from unsuspecting victims, the real Mtukula Pakhomo beneficiaries are transforming themselves with cash transfers from the Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP) also known as Mtukula Pakhomo.
50-year-old Mary Moses stays in Mpotadzingwe village not far from the District headquarters in Chikwawa. She is one of the over 1,250,000 individual beneficiaries of the Mtukula Pakhomo project across the country. Like other households the cash transfers from the programme have helped move them from destitution to hope.
“When my husband died, he left me with nothing. There was nothing to help us survive as a family,” Says Mary who has six children and three grandchildren. “We struggled everyday just to put food on the table”, she explains.
In 2015, Mary was seriously ill with Tuberculosis. Mary and the children had nowhere to go for help. It was during this time that the Social Welfare Office in Chikwawa were selecting beneficiaries for Mtukula Pakhomo in the district. Mary Moses qualified as one of the beneficiaries. She has since then, been receiving a monthly cash income of K11000.
“When I first received money from Mtukula Pakhomo, I used the whole amount to buy what was needed in the house. The following month, I realised that using the whole amount, although it was not enough, would mean me and the kids staying in poverty forever,” Says Mary. She adds, “I decided to start keeping part of the cash in a village bank. I started depositing K2000 in the village bank every month. The house we had was small and in a bad condition, I needed to build a good house for my family”.
With profits from the village bank, Mary started buying Iron sheets. When she finished buying the iron sheets, she bought bricks and other requirements before hiring local artisans to build her house. Today she is a proud owner of a decent house and a small confectionary business.
Mary also keeps chickens and goats, which she bought using money from Mtukula Pakhomo. “I bought the goats and chicken with money I received from the programme. I sell the animals when there is need. Sometimes we also kill and eat since we can’t always afford to buy meat from the butcheries”.
“I am poor but I don’t want to die poor and I don’t want my children to grow old poor. I know this program will not be there forever. When it is gone, I will have to do without the monthly cash transfers from Mtukula Pakhomo. I am preparing for a life where we are self-sufficient and able to save more for the future,” Says the Mtukula Pakhomo beneficiary.
Today, Mary receives a monthly stipend of K11000 (about $15) as social support from the Mtukula Pakhomo programme. Out of that, she deposits K5000 (about $7) to the village bank where at the end of the year she gets her dividends. During the year, she is also borrows from the village bank money, which she uses for her business and upkeep of school going children when there is need.
With proper guidance and linkages to other opportunities in the communities, beneficiaries of Mtukula Pakhomo are rising beyond just using the cash they receive for immediate consumption. They are investing in income generating activities which will see them easily graduating from the program to allow more needy people to benefit.
Osman Mpeketula, SCTP Officer for Chikwawa, says beneficiaries are linked to other opportunities like Village Savings and Loan (VSL) groups where they learn to save and invest for the future. He says through such groups, beneficiaries learn business management and home economics.
“We encourage them not to look at the cash as just for consumption but to try their best to use it as an investment for the future. Those with school going children have to venture into activities that can enable them better support their wards,” Says Mpeketula adding that 10149 households (42497 individuals) are currently benefiting from the programme in Chikwawa district.
Project Coordinator, Laurent Kansinjiro concludes that through the program, government is enhancing its efforts of supporting the needy while helping them gain ground in supporting themselves.
“Mtukula Pakhomo programme works to reduce poverty and hunger in ultra-poor and labour constrained households, promote school enrolment and attendance and improve health, nutrition, protection and wellbeing of vulnerable children.” Explains Kansinjiro.
With financial support from the Malawi Government, World Bank, Irish Government, German Government, the European Union and technical assistance from UNICEF, the programme is currently supporting 1,257,452 beneficiaries 697,499 of whom are women.