Every month, Pollina Malala receives cash support corresponding to SEK 60. The money means that she, her children and grandchildren now have more food to eat, and she has also bought chickens and pigs that provide the family with extra income. In addition, Pollina’s grandchildren can go to school longer.
“It feels incredibly great to suddenly get access to money. I don't want my grandchildren to have the same sort of life that I’ve had,” explains Pollina Malala.
Zambia is seeing a major expansion of social security systems, which is considered an investment to improve people's lives. In 2016, Sweden signed a comprehensive agreement with Zambia to support the programme with SEK 165 million over three years. One of those covered by the programme is Pollina Malala, who lives in the remote countryside of Monze district in southern Zambia.
“Getting access to cash support is the best thing that’s happened in my life,” says Pollina Malala.
The rain pours down outside her dark little house built of mud. The rain, of course, is incredibly important for the maize being able to germinate and grow. But, at the same time, it can also be a problem for those who can only afford to have grass roofing since this lets in the rain and everything gets muddy. Thanks to the money she has received, Pollina Malala has been able to buy a metal roof, so it is now possible to stay dry and keep things clean indoors.
“I've had a hard life,” she says thoughtfully. Not being able to give your children enough to eat is among the most difficult things there is. And not being able to afford to let them go to school makes it difficult to improve the situation. So it felt incredibly great to suddenly get access to money, and I'm really grateful that I was selected,” explains Pollina Malala.
She is a widow in a household of six people, including four children. It is one of 218,000 households in Zambia covered by the programme for cash support. This means that it reaches approximately 1.3 million of the country's 16 million inhabitants, i.e. 8 per cent. The objective is to double the number of households so that the programme reaches as large a proportion as possible of the people living in extreme poverty.
Important to have good selection criteria
The programme itself is designed so that beneficiaries receive 70 kwacha a month, which corresponds to approximately SEK 60. This may seem a small amount, but for those living in deep poverty, it is a lot of money. There are no restrictions on how the money is to be used, and the recipients are not required to do anything in return.
Selection criteria are that the household shall belong to the very poorest in the country and that it shall have either a family member who is over 65 or someone living with a disability. To ensure that the selection process is carried out correctly, local committees have been appointed and beneficiaries must be able to certify that they are either living with a disability or are over 65.
To find selection criteria that are both fair and cost-effective is a challenge when designing social security systems. It must be clear who is entitled to support so that everyone understands why some receive support and others do not.
“I don't have any relatives around here, and it's not easy to get help from my neighbours. They have problems of their own, after all, and it's really nice not having to go and ask for money,” says Pollina Malala.
She shows us around to explain how she has used the money. She has bought chickens and some pigs that contribute to a somewhat better financial situation, and the cash grant in itself makes it possible to buy more food. Hunger is a major problem in Zambia, and a very unbalanced diet means in particular that many small children do not develop as they should. In addition, the money means that Pollina Malala's grandchildren can go to school longer, which is extremely important for the children’s future.
“I don't want my grandchildren to have the same sort of life that I’ve had. But I’m still worried that it will be difficult for them. Education is their only chance,” she concludes.