Impacts on children of cash transfers in Malawi CANDACE MILLER , MAXTON gRANT TSOKA AND
Introduction The Mchinji Social Cash Transfer Pilot Scheme (SCTS) is positioned to become a major poverty reduction tool in the government of Malawi’s National Social Welfare Policy, which is an effort to respond to widespread poverty and the “inability of households to deal with livelihood shocks.” Malawi’s [Draft] National Social Welfare Policy calls for programs and policies that confront poverty and vulnerability, directly provide transfers to the destitute and strengthen human capital to break the poverty cycle (National Social Protection Technical Committee 2008). Social cash transfer (SCT) programs are currently an under-utilized policy option in African countries (Miller 2007) but are becoming increasingly discussed in the development discourse in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA). In the “Livingstone Call for Action” (African Union 2006), 12 ESA governments (Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) pledged to draft costed national social transfer plans within two to three years. The Malawi SCT was designed to alleviate poverty, reduce malnutrition and improve school enrollment among the poorest ten percent of households by delivering regular and reliable cash transfers (CTs) to ultra-poor households that are also labor constrained (Schubert 2006). (The scheme was conceived by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) technical consultant Dr. Bernd Schubert. Through ongoing consultations between UNICEF, the Department of Poverty and Disaster Management Affairs, and the district, the scheme was launched in September 2006.) With these goals, the scheme is intended to be a safety net for the poorest, labor-constrained households, as well as transformative in reducing intergenerational poverty by boosting human development (National Social Protection Technical Committee 2008). However, managing SCTS or any social protection program is time-intensive. Implementation requires both national and international commitment to social protection, consensus-building, co-ordination within different ministries, increased investment in institutional and human resource capacity, and functioning accountability systems (African Union 2006). In Malawi, with support from the central ministries and UNICEF, the District Assembly (DA) must manage the process of identifying beneficiaries, disbursing
monthly cash payments to thousands of households over hundreds of miles, administering programmatic changes, and monitoring and reporting all activities. These processes must occur in a context where the DA has limited staff, resources and technology. In the absence of sophisticated data sources and automated systems, which are available in more developed countries, the Malawi SCTS utilizes a community-based targeting system to identify the poorest households (Miller, Tsoka and Reichert 2010). Despite these challenges, in Mchinji, Malawi, 400 recipient households received their first CT in June 2006 as part of the initial pilot program. By April 2008, 2878 households were receiving transfers on a monthly basis with total program expenditures at MK 6.1 million (US$43,000) per month. In Mchinji, the district assembly worked to scale up to 11,400 households at MK 26 million per month (US$185,000) by June 2009 (Mchinji District Assembly 2008). Countrywide, by October 2008, the SCTS was reaching 12,367 households in seven districts (Ministry of Women and Child Development). On average, beneficiaries receive monthly transfers of MK 2000 (US$14), depending on the size of the household and the number of school-aged children in the household (a MK 200 top-up is paid for primary school-age children and MK 400 for secondary school-age youth) (Table 6.1). From March 2007 to April 2008, researchers from Boston University School of Public Health and the Centre for Social Research at the University of Malawi conducted a longitudinal study of the pilot SCTS program in Mchinji, Malawi. Funded over two years by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and by UNICEF, the external evaluation of the Mchinji CT served as a mechanism to generate information on the scheme as a component of the Social Protection Policy in Malawi. The evaluation is comprised of three major studies:
1 The impact evaluation examines the impact that cash has on intervention versus comparison households over a period of one year.