Evaluation of the Malawi Social Cash Transfer Program

Project Description

Malawi’s Social Cash Transfer program provides direct payments of cash—on average, $13 a month—to families identified as ultra-poor and labor-constrained. The CGHD conducted a series of rigorous evaluations of the Malawi Social Cash Transfer pilot program, in which 23,561 households in seven of Malawi’s 28 districts received monthly cash transfers to alleviate poverty and vulnerability. The evaluations looked at the impact on children, families and the community, targeting, and operations of the pilot program.

Data from the CGHD’s impact evaluation revealed that cash transfer recipient families had fewer missed meals, lower rates of underweight children, fewer reported sicknesses, higher school enrollment and fewer absences, better access to medicines and health care, and a reduction in instances of young children working to help support their families. Recipients are using the money to buy food and medicine, to send children to school, to purchase livestock and farming supplies, and to travel to hospitals to obtain antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to treat HIV and AIDS.

Data from the targeting and operations assessments identified a number of weaknesses in the cash transfer program and made recommendations for improvements. The group called for closer monitoring of the program by district leaders and central ministries, automation of records, and a clarification of the criteria by which families are deemed eligible for aid. A key concern is that the program is reaching only about 10 percent of households, while at least 15 percent qualify as ultra-poor and labor-constrained.

Findings from the CGHD’s evaluations have been used by the Government of Malawi to improve the program’s operations and recipient identification policies, as well as informing plans to scale up cash transfer initiatives throughout the country, with tentative plans to expand to all of Malawi’s 28 districts by 2012.

In addition, the team’s evaluations have attracted broad interest from policy makers in other countries. In recent years, 13 African governments joined in a pledge to draft national cash transfer plans that will offer assistance to vulnerable citizens. The World Bank is making millions of dollars available for targeted cash assistance programs across Africa.

This project is one activity of the CGHD’s Child and Family Applied Research project (CFAR).

Project Details

Principal Investigator Candace Miller
  • Maxton Tsoka, Centre for Social Research at the University of Malawi
Country(ies) Malawi
Dates of Research 2007–2008
Donor/Funder USAID logo United States Agency for International Development (USAID)