It is 2 O’clock in the afternoon here in Mzimba district and our destination is Kapaika Village which is under Traditional Authority Khonsolo in the Southern part of Mzimba District, 16 Kilometres off the M1 Road.
Kapaika Village, just like many other villages in Malawi, is home to many ultra- poor households who are struggling to survive under prevailing tough economic conditions.
Here we meet 57 Year old Flora Nyirongo who is visually impaired.
Persons with disabilities in Malawi are disproportionately affected by poverty because of their vulnerability due to their impairments.
Just like many households in the village, Flora has for over 15 years been struggling to provide for her 2 children as she separated with her husband back in 2001.
However her story changed the moment she was identified as one of the beneficiaries of the programme aimed at uplifting ultra-poor households which the government of Malawi, through the Financial Access to Rural markets for Smallholder Enterprise (FARMSE) with funding from the International Fund for Agriculture Development-IFAD, is implementing in selected districts across the country.
Under the programme, ultra poor households are provided with seed capital money to set up small scale businesses to support their families.
“Since I broke up with my husband in 2001 I have been struggling to raise my 2 children and mostly I have been relying on begging from well-wishers.
“When I first heard about the FARMSE programme I never took it seriously as I just thought it is one of those initiatives that have come and gone after offering so much hope to us, the hopeless; but my story changed after I was enrolled on this programme and luckily I got K147,000 which I invested in farming by buying fertiliser and goats,” Nyirongo narrates.
According to Nyirongo she now harbours plans of growing her business by buying other animals like pigs and chicken so that she maximises on profits.
For O’Brien Mandala, Ultrapoor Graduation Specialist at FARMSE, Nyirongo’s case is just an isolated success and significant story of the many achievements achieved so far under the programme.
“We are so excited that the programme is bearing its intended fruits. Look here, we have the story of Flora, a visually impaired woman, who has defied all odds and is now able to provide for her family in spite of her disability,” said a visibly happy Mandala.
Concurring with Mandala is Kumbukani Rashid, a Specialist for Community based Financial Organisations, who hopes that with the current pace at which the programme is going it has potential of exceeding the target of only promoting financial access for ultra-poor households.
In Mzimba district FARMSE has set aside K1.6 Billion for the programme targeting to reach out to a total population of 4220 households by 2025.
This is a progressive initiative that has huge potential to elevate the social-economic wellbeing of poor rural households in Malawi. If such programmes are replicated in many communities many poor households may come out of extreme poverty.