In recent years, many Malawians have been getting dubious messages advising them that they have won monetary prizes in Mtukula Pakhomo Project.
The sender goes as far as advising the targeted recipient to call a provided number to know more about their prize.
In their bid to claim their “prize money”, some people have ended up losing money to these scammers who lure unsuspecting victims to send them money as a processing fee before redeeming their prizes.
However, the real Mtukula Pakhomo Project is different. It is a Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP) that supports and transforms the lives of people in poor households.
Mtukula Pakhomo project coordinator Laurent Kansinjiro, who is also deputy director of Social Welfare, says the initiative does not send text messages to beneficiaries or any members of the public.
“Anyone who receives such messages should know that they are not from Mtukula Pakhomo and should report them to the police,” he says.
While fraudsters are using the fake Mtukula Pakhomo to steal money from unsuspecting victims, the real programme’s beneficiaries are transforming their lives and those of their families.
Fifty-year-old Mary Moses from Mpotadzingwe Village in Chikwawa is one of over 1.2 million beneficiaries of the project across the country.
Like many other benefitting individuals and households, the money that she gets from the programme has helped her move from destitution to hope.
“When my husband died, he left me with nothing. There was nothing to help us survive as a family,” says Moses who has six children and three grandchildren. “We struggled every day just to put food on the table.”
In 2015, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and she was seriously ill. She and her children had nowhere to go.
“Luckily, it was around the same time when the Chikwawa District Social Welfare Office was selecting beneficiaries for the Mtukula Pakhomo Project,” says Moses.
She was selected as a beneficiary and since then she has been receiving a monthly cash grant of K11 000.
Says Moses: “When I first received the money, I used all of it to buy what was needed in the household.
“However, the following month, I realised that using the whole amount, although it was not enough, would mean my children and I being impoverished forever.”
That realisation pushed her to join a village bank where she started depositing K2 000 monthly.
“The house we had was small and in a bad condition, I needed to build a good house for my family,” says Moses.
Five years later, using the profits made from the village bank, she is now a proud owner of a decent house and confectionery business.
Moses also keeps chickens and goats which she bought with money from Mtukula Pakhomo Project. She sells these when a need arises.
“Sometimes we slaughter one and use for relish because we cannot always afford to buy meat from the butcheries,” she says.
Although she was born poor, Moses says she doesn’t want to die poor and she also doesn’t want her children to grow up in poverty.
Says Moses: “I know this programme will not be there forever. When it is gone, I will have to do without the monthly cash transfers.
“As such, I am preparing for a life where we are self-sufficient by saving more for the future.”
Currently, out of the K11 000 (about $15) monthly cash grant she gets from the SCTP, she deposits K5 000 (about $7) in the village bank where she gets dividends at the end of the year.
During the year, Moses also borrows money from the village bank which she uses for her business and as upkeep for her school-going children.
Chikwawa district SCTP officer Osman Mpeketula says the programme is designed in a way whereby 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 also learn business management and home economics skills.
“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 to support their dependents better,” says Mpeketula.
Currently, he says 10 149 households comprising 42 497 individuals are benefiting from the programme in Chikwawa.
Nationwide, 1 257 457 people, 697 499 of them women, are benefiting from the government-led social support programme which is supported by Unicef and bankrolled by the World Bank, the Irish Government and the European Union. n