Roeland Hemsteede

PhD student

From manual to digital: First hand insight into Malawi’s Social Cash Transfer

How cash transfers are delivered to beneficiaries involves important policy and practical considerations. This blog presents first-hand experience of the manual distribution of Malawi’s Social Cash Transfer Programme (locally known as the Mtukula Pakhomo ). Recognising the practical demands on government staff capacity explains the move towards experimenting with alternative transfer modalities: namely e-payments. However, this approach also involves pros and cons. In previous blogs , I explored how implementing cash transfers is a demanding task. This time, I will briefly describe the manual cash transfer process in Malawi, from the perspective of an observer, to provide brief insight into the extent of the task many African government’s grapple with. I then...Read more

Conditional or unconditional cash transfers? From ideology to policy dialogue

Building resilience against hunger and malnutrition in Burkina Faso, the European Commission's humanitarian aid department (ECHO) funds the NGO ACF to provide health and nutrition care as well as food assistance including cash transfers for the poorest families. Photo credit: EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie
Should cash transfers be conditional or unconditional? Putting ideological views about the approach aside, policy outcomes are most often a reflection of practical limitations and political considerations. This can be said to account for the emergence of ‘soft conditions’, involving community enforcement. Conditionality Roughly speaking, social protection cash transfers can be categorised as either conditional or unconditional: Conditional cash transfers require beneficiaries to comply with specific conditions to be eligible for the transfer. These are often related to school attendance or health care. Unconditional cash transfers do not require any specific actions to be undertaken by targeted beneficiaries. The decision about whether a new programme...Read more

Lesotho’s Child Grants Programme: From donor pilot to government programme

Ten years ago, Lesotho started thinking about a child grant. While initially designed and funded with support of the European Union (EU) and UNICEF, today, it is a nationally owned and funded programme . This blog examines the strategies that facilitated this transition . Following the devastating impact of the HIV/AIDS crisis, cash transfers have spread rapidly throughout sub-Saharan Africa. One of the big questions, however, is how to turn these pilots, which were often initially funded by donors, into sustainable government programmes. Lesotho’s Child Grants Programme (CGP) is no exception to this. In this blog, I explore how the programme went from a donor-driven pilot to a government-funded programme. This transition, I believe, is highly...Read more

Community level implementation of cash transfers: Eligibility, fairness, and informal redistribution

Cash transfer disbursement in rural Malawi
In the implementation of a cash transfer programme, a rift often exists between policy design and the realities of poor and vulnerable communities. Resource constraints demand stringent targeting, resulting in perceptions of unfairness emerging regarding eligibility. Informal redistribution of transfers therefore occurs, undermining policy objectives. A social protection programme’s policy manual may say one thing, but influential stakeholders within a community might disagree. In this context, informal redistribution might take place. This can result in cash transfers, and wider social protection efforts, not realising their potential impact. While this observation is not novel, it is rarely discussed. This blog therefore aims to encourage reflection on the extent to...Read more

Fragmented donor funding: Malawi’s Social Cash Transfer Programme

A village in rural Malawi. Photo credit: Roeland Hemsteede
This blog provides a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the various donor funding approaches to Malawi’s Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP). There are four donors that directly fund the transfers and each has an established history with Malawi’s institutions. They also have different demands from their home constituencies, varying risk appetites, and priorities. The result is a fragmented funding landscape resulting in multiple audits and different communication and accountability channels. With the cash transfers to 27 out of Malawi’s 28 districts being funded by donors, the Government of Malawi (GoM) has little ability to impose its own wishes for a harmonised funding pool. Malawi’s Social Cash Transfer Programme Malawi's SCTP is an unconditional cash transfer programme...Read more