— In Malawi, the international developmentl NGO Oxfam has launched a project that seeks to avert hunger situation facing millions of people.
Under the Integrated Emergency Cash Transfer Response Project, the NGO is giving money to hunger-stricken households to buy food.
The move is part of the response to a recent report by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee, or MVAC, for 2012/2013. It shows that about two million households are facing food shortages largely because of erratic rains and draught during the last growing season.
The three month project was launched in Mthilamanja area in the southern district of Mulanje and is targeting about 6,000 households there. Specifically singled out for help are 40,000 households in three areas of Mulanje, Nsanje and Salima districts.
John Makina is the country director Oxfam.
"The Cash Transfer Program we have launched [in Mulanje]," he explained, "is part of a wider [national] response to food insecurity. [This is part of our work] together with other partners and government at the national level [like Concern Worldwide, Goal Project and Save the Children]."
The beneficiaries are receiving a monthly cash of about $ US 40 until the next harvest season for buying food and other basic daily needs.
The money is delivered to the beneficiaries through different money transfer systems, including mobile phones, courier services and mobile banks.
Gertrude Gonan, a widow who is one of the beneficiaries in the Mthilamanja area, says the money has helped her family in many ways.
“I fall sick often," she says, "so I have been using my son to cultivate in the field, as a result he has been absent from school. So apart from buying food I will be using the money for hiring people to help me cultivate the maize field so that I should have a bumper harvest this year.”
Not everyone is happy. One of them is a businessman Austin M’ndunga.
“I totally disagree with [the program], because it encourages laziness," he says. "[Some] villagers don’t use it in a proper way; [some] are busy drinking beer with it because it’s not a large amount of money that can really make [a difference].”
M’ndunga says it would better if the program taught skills that would help people earn a living, rather than giving them money.
But Makina disagrees:
“For us the challenge is not [a shortage of food]," he asserts. "We have food in the country. The challenge is basically its distribution. If you give cash, you [help] make the markets function [and] food will be distributed from food surplus areas to food deficit areas.”
The MVAC report indicates that Malawi has a surplus of 800,000 tons of maize that will last until the next harvest.
Other African countries benefiting from the Oxfam-funded cash transfer program include Somalia, Niger and Sudan.
Listen to report on Oxfam's cash transfer program in Malawi