Last summer I served as a trainer on a visit by the heads of social protection (anti-poverty) programs from countries of Africa and the Caribbean to see how the government of Rwanda supports movement out of poverty.
One of the participants on that program, Charles Mandala, serves as the Executive Director of the Local Development Fund, which coordinates the government-run Malawi Social Action Fund (MASAF). MASAF provides livelihood opportunities, cash transfers and capacity building to households working to escape poverty and vulnerability.
A little explanation about how the MASAF program works. Funding comes from both the government of Malawi and the World Bank. The primary way in which MASAF provides income to those living in poverty is through a public works program. To receive assistance from the government, those able to work must participate in projects to build rural roads, expand water catchment areas and improve agriculture. Each community decides what type of public works project would be best for them.
Charles became an early subscriber to Soul of Finance and said he would like to supply some stories from their work. This is the first one his office sent. Charity Kaunda provided the story. Gregory Mtemanyana conducted the interview, and John Maneya wrote the story in English. The storyteller is Bright Yana, a shoe repair person who qualified for the MASAF program, but faced a challenge. His physical disability made it impossible for him to work on the road construction project that his community chose. Read how he and his wife solved that challenge.
BRIGHT YANA: MASAF HELPED TO SUSTAIN MY SHOE REPAIRING BUSINESS
My name is Bright Yana and I am 60 years old and married with 7 children; 3 girls and 4 boys. I come from Lolo Village, in Sub Tradition Authority Nanseta, in Luchenza Municipality (southern Malawi). I am a person with a physical disability.
Life before I was identified as a beneficiary of the Public Works Programme was hard. I was failing to buy food and clothes for my family. I also had difficulties to pay fees for my secondary school children.
Though I was trying to make ends meet by repairing shoes within Luchenza municipality, I was not able to meet customer needs because I did not have raw materials which included Bostic (an adhesive that binds leather to rubber), tyres and nylon for my shoe repairing business.
In 2016, I was listed as one of the beneficiaries under the MASAF 4 Public Works Programme under a road rehabilitation project. Due to my condition, my wife did the work on my behalf. After working for 24 days in the September 2015 cycle, I received MK14,400 (US$25 at September 2015 rates). I used part of the money to buy worn out tyres and nylon to boost my shoe repairing business. The remaining amount was spent on food and groceries.
I again participated in the December 2015 cycle and the wages I got were used to pay fees for my two children who were at Luchenza Community Day Secondary School.
The wages I received in the Public Works cycles of 2016 and 2017 have been used to boost my business and I am now able to repair shoes for my clients who come from Mulanje, Thyolo as well Luchenza Municipality. The customer base for the shoe repairing business has now increased and I have also trained one of my sons in the shoe repairing business. My son is able to get an average of MK3, 000 (US$4 at current rates) every day and this contributes to the family income.
The money I used to boost my business from the Public Works Programme wages has helped me to have sustainable income because I am able to get MK3, 000 (US$4) per day and that translates to MK90, 000 (US$120) a month. With this income, I am able to fend for my family and am also able to support my grandchildren with school uniform and basic needs.
Thanks to MASAF 4, two children have now finished secondary school education and my business has grown. I am now a recognized shoe repairer who has won the trust of my clients in Luchenza and beyond.
A couple of things stand out for me from Bright Yana’s story. First, he and his wife work as a team in moving their household out of poverty. They qualified for the MASAF program, but Bright could not do the work. So, she worked on the road crew instead.
The second is a point that comes across in all these stories – how a small amount of money can make such a huge difference. His household received $25 for each month that his wife participated in the public works project. This money helped him make his business much more productive and profitable, provided sufficient food for the family to eat, paid school bills for two children still in school, supports his grandchildren, and provides a job for one of his sons. Because of the growth of the business, he can now provide for the family without continued government assistance. And he’s a parapalegic.