Rural households in Malawi are increasingly finding it difficult to buy basic necessities due to the widening gap between their incomes and the ever-rising cost of living, according to the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC).
The CfSC rural basic needs basket report indicates that rural households are grappling with the high cost of living, now at an average of K120 105 for a family of six, against rural income of about K13 000.
The faith-based economic advocacy group conducted a study in four rural areas of Lilongwe (Kasiya), Dedza (Mayani), Zomba (Chingale area) and Chikwawa (Maseya) districts where it established that income stood at an average of K13 500 except for Chikwawa where it stood at K65 187.
Despite that average monthly incomes have grown over an eight-month period, the high inflation, now hovering at 19.9 percent as of November 2016, has lessened the impact of the increased incomes for the rural households.
In an interview, CfSC project officer for the rural basic needs basket, Kondwani Hara, said that on average, rural households generate K13 000 while in an ideal situation, a family of six was supposed to have K125 000 to afford basic necessities.
“Malawi is a predominantly agro-based and most of the farmers who produce our staple food live in rural areas. If the workforce has been affected by hunger and poverty, this reduces the productivity and the whole economy will be affected,” he said.
Commenting on the same, Catholic University head of economics Gilbert Kachamba said this proves that the cost of living is even tougher in the rural areas despite that most of the households do not pay for housing and land.
He said: “The cost of living in the rural areas should be a little bit tougher looking at the way things are in terms of the rural areas.”
Kachamba said the margin is just too wide and cannot be based on things that are expensive in the urban areas as compared to the rural areas.
However, he advised that there is need for implementation of policies, especially in the agriculture sector if the income of rural masses is to be higher.
“We need to have policies that will empower rural masses so that their income should go up. As you know that most of these people rely on agriculture, we need to have deliberate policies where prices of commodities should be increased,” he said.
In its report titled Vulnerability to Poverty in Rural Malawi dated August 2016, the World Bank said risks particularly rainfall and loss of off-farm employment, are contributing to the growing poverty levels while at the same time dragging non-poor households to fall into the poverty trap.
The Malawi government is implementing social cash transfer programmes such as the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) and Public Works Programme (PWP) which seek to address the same issues as in the cash transfer programme. n