Hunger season peaks in Namibia but good harvest expected

Food security is tightening for households in Namibia, as the hunger season reaches its peak. But Namibia’s social safety nets are likely providing some relief, ahead of harvest time in the next few months.

The Regional Climate Change Programme (RCCP) highlights a report by the Namibia Early Warning and Food Information Unit (NEWFIU), which says that most rural households depleted their granaries by September 2009, and are now reliant on the market for access to food.

The report is based on a survey undertaken by NEWFIU in the Caprivi, Kavango, Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana and Oshikoto regions, where 70 percent of the population lives.

You can download the full report here:

The Namibian government has several social protection measures in place, such as an old age pension for those 60 and older, an orphan and vulnerable children grant and a special programme for the San people. It is likely that these grants play an important role in providing cash, which enables people to buy food at the market.

Food aid provided as flood or drought relief is only meant for people in critical need.

The NEWFIU report is also covered by the New Era newspaper, which reports that excellent millet harvests are likely in 2010, in the north-central regions of Namibia. The rains in Namibia’s millet belt have been good and should they continue, harvests are expected to be 70-90% better than in 2010 and 20% better than in normal years, the NEWFIU report is quoted as saying.

There’s no improvement in sight for white maize production though, because of poor rainfall in areas producing this crop.

From mid March when most seasonal produce (legumes, green maize, squashes, etc) were expected to become available until the time of the main harvest in May.


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Cash transfers under focus in Malawi

We really had an excellent set of entries from Malawi for our competition, following the training organised by FrayIntermedia and sponsored by the Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme (RHVP). The standard was high, and it has been tough trying to decide on a winner.

So, after much deliberation, the winner for Malawi is Michael Kaiyatsa, for his article, Cash Transfers Giving Hope to Vulnerable Women, published in the Sunday Times of January 31st, 2010.

Michael also had a second article, published in the Nyasa Times on February 24th, titled Malawi’s Cash Transfers: Magic Bullets for Eradicating Poverty?

Because of the high standard of stories from Malawi, however, RHVP has decided to award a regional prize too. Runner up for this prize is Sellina Nkowani, for her story, Social Cash Transfer Changes Lives of Poor Malawians, published in Malawi News, February 20-26th.

And a big congratulations to regional winner, Chipiliro Kansilanga, for her excellent story, Transferring Cash to Reduce Poverty, from the Daily Times of March 1st. Chipiliro did not only tell the story of two families and how they had benefitted from social cash transfers, but she also painted the bigger picture through reference to some of the latest research from the field.

Michael Kaiyatsa will be hearing from FrayIntermedia for his prize, while RHVP will be in touch with Sellina Nkowani and Chipiliro for their awards.

While winners did have to be chosen, it is unfortunate that we were unable to award everybody. Patrick Maulidi and George Kalungwe submitted an excellent radio feature, broadcast on Zodiak FM, while Maulidi also wrote an article on the same topic, which was published on the station’s website.

Thanks too, to Martin Chiwanda for his piece from Mkwaso of 17-28 February, titled Moyo wa Mai wina usintha ndi K1,800.

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Botswana journalists cover poverty

We had several entries submitted for the best article or report, following the training workshop in Gaborone in January, sponsored by RHVP and facilitated by FrayIntermedia. The workshop covered reporting on poverty, food security and social protection.

Boboki Kayawe wrote a very nice story about some women in Gaborone who are hoping to benefit from government incentives to start a small business making school uniforms. You can read the story on Mmegi Online, or download it in PDF format here. Nchidzi Smarts’ entry looked at the same project. That story is available on PDF here, or can be found online at the Botswana Gazette.

Nicholas Mokwena wrote an article for the online magazine Change/ Mudanca, looking broadly at some of Botswana’s policies. You can find it on p4 and 5 of the online magazine, here.

Thank you too to Mapitso Sekete Ts’iu for submitting the transcript of her very nice radio reports, broadcast on Radio Lesotho. And good luck to Duncan Taolo who was still looking for someone to publish his excellent story on the government’s Ipelegeng intensive labour programme.

But sadly, the prize can only go to one person and we chose Ntibinyane Ntibinyane as the winner. His emphasis on the human story of poverty was really powerful, particularly as he also managed to link the personal stories with issues of policy or government response. His article in the Midweek Sun was the winner, but we also admired Ntibinyane’s commitment to keeping the issue on the agenda, with not one but four stories in total, published in the Midweek Sun, Ghetto Metro and Botswana Guardian.

To download the text of the articles, click on the related picture:

Well done Ntibinyane! In the next few days we will post the results of the Malawi competition, so be sure to watch this space.

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How social grants benefit children

There’s some interesting evidence of the impact of social grants, contained in an article by Kristin Palitza of IPS, looking at the recent increases in the social grants in South Africa, recently announced by Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan. The article focuses on the impact of the extension of the Child Support Grant to children up to the age of 18, as well as small increases in the size of that grant and the Old Age Pension.

But what is interesting is research highlighted by Josee Koch of the Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme as well as David Neves, from the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies of the University of the Western Cape. Koch and Neves refer to studies that show that, contrary to what some skeptics might say:

  • Social grants are an investment, not a waste of money: “For every Rand (0.13 dollars) you pay out in social grants, you gain three Rands (0.4 dollars) in local economy,” Koch is quoted as saying.
  • Social grants are used wisely by recipients: “Although concerns about the misuse of cash transfers keeps coming up, all our evidence suggests that it’s not true,” Neves says in Palitza’s piece. This is backed up by solid data. According to Koch as quoted in the article: “Children whose parents receive the CSG are on average two centimeters taller than those who do not.” This shows money is spent on food, not on alcohol or gambling.
  • And finally, the article points to research showing that social grants do not make people idle and lazy: “households that receive a pension have a 12 percent higher work participation rate, Koch explains, which points to the fact that cash transfers free up family members to look for work.”

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Helping the poor access financial services

Across the world, over 170 poor people receive regular payments of money, or cash transfers, from governments. Now a new study outlines how governments could use these payments to help include the poor access financial services they have largely been excluded from until now.

The report, called “Banking the Poor via G2P Payments” was produced by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and CGAP –  an “independent policy and research center dedicated to advancing financial access for the world’s poor.” (G2P means government to person.)

Genrally, governments deliver payments to people in cash (such as over the counter at a post office or other delivery point), or through electronic cards that only allow the person to withdraw money, but nothing else. The CGAP paper reports that governments could make life a whole lot easier for poor people by adopting electronic cards that give people access to basic financial services such as bill payments, deposits, and withdrawals.

Governments who currently pay social grants in could save a lot of money by switching to electronic payments. And a switch to a more financially inclusive service would save poor people time and money, and enable them to manage their finances more productively (for example, instead of having to travel to a fixed pay point to withdraw cash, they could use the card to pay for purchases at a local store — or transfer money to relatives in other places.)

Existing programmes in Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa are proving the benefits of such an option.  According to the report’s authors,”a growing body of evidence shows that financial services enable poor people to better withstand shocks, build assets, and link into the wider economy as fuller economic citizens.”

A more comprehensive outline of the report can be found here.

And you can download the full report here.

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Poverty and social protection in the news

Training workshops in Reporting on Poverty, Food Security and Social Protection have been held in Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana and Malawi. The workshops were organised by FrayIntermedia, and sponsored by the Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme (RHVP), with funding from UKAid.

FrayIntermedia and RHVP offered a prize for the best article or broadcast report produced and published within one month of each workshop. So far, prizes have been awarded for Zambia and Tanzania.

The prize winner for Zambia is Nebert Mulenga, for his article, “Social Cash Transfer: Passage out of Poverty?”, published in The Times of Zambia.

A PDF of the text of his article can be downloaded here: Mulenga social cash transfers. It’s also available online here, but the Times of Zambia website can be slow to load.

The prize winner for Tanzania is Simon Mkhina, for his article, “Agricultural revolution, a politicized campaign in Tanzania”, published on

Unfortunately only one prize could be awarded, but special mention must also go to Chelu Matuzya, for an article in the Business Times: “The absent-present saviour for Tanzania’s economy”. You can download a scanned copy of Chelu’s article here:

Mnaku Mbani of the Business Times also entered a story — but here we would like to highlight a recent story of his, not submitted as it was published too late for entry. It is about the banking sector in Tanzania, and illustrates how a business and technology-related story can also cover and reflect issues related to poverty. You can read it online here.

On that same note, it is also worth reading another article by Chelu Matuzya, on Tanzania’s Kilimu Kwanza – agriculture first – policy. You can find it here.

Another person who submitted an entry is Lutengano Haonga. His report is on Africa News, titled Tanzania Should Revisit Agricultural Subsidy.

Congratulations to the winners and to everyone for their great stories. Watch this space over the next two weeks for more news of the winners from Malawi and Botswana, and links to some of the articles and reports submitted.

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Making the most of remittances

Thanks to Duncan Green’s blog From Poverty to Power, for alerting us to an interesting article by Sanou Mbaye, on remittances to Africa. Mbaye argues that despite all the gloomy news, Africa’s macroeconomic performance has improved dramatically since the 1990s. And he says a big factor in that is remittances — money sent home by Africans now living and working overseas.

According to Mbaye: “…a study commissioned by the Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development indicates that more than 30 million individuals living outside their countries of origin contribute more than $40 billion annually in remittances to their families and communities back home. For sub-Saharan African countries, remittances increased from $3.1 billion in 1995 to $18.5 billion in 2007, according to the World Bank, representing between 9% and 24% of GDP and 80-750% of ODA [overseas development assistance].

Of course the value of these remittances has probably dropped quite a bit thanks to the global economic downturn over the last year or two. But still, remittances play an important role.

But none of this is really new. What is interesting, is Mbaye’s argument that African countries need to adapt their banking and regulatory systems to be able to get the most benefit out of these remittances. Governments need to introduce measures to prod banks and financial services companies to reduce the costs of transferring money across borders, and make it easier for people to send and receive cash.

He looks at three different strategies being followed – in the Anglophone, Lusophone and Francophone countries, and points to lessons to be learnt from these.

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