Photo: Zena Athumani, a member of the Kisanga Village Executive Committee, registering details of families which have qualified for the cash handouts as part of Social Safety Net Project run by TASAF. Credit: Edwin Mkendo - Photo: 2019

World Bank’s Cash Handouts Lift Tanzanians from Poverty

By Kizito Makoye

KILOSA, Tanzania (IDN) – Hidaya Juma looks gaunt and weary. Her sun-parched skin and tattered clothes tell it all. She is poor.

Juma, a 43-year-old single mother of four, who lives in Kisanga village, Kilosa district, in Tanzania’s eastern Morogoro region, lives in a mud-walled house that is prone to flooding.

Her 19-year-old daughter Zubeda shares a dusty bedroom with two siblings. Juma sleeps in the other room with two of her children, aged nine and six.

An old-fashioned iron bed stands in the middle of the room. Strings of black soot hang from the dirty roof while a hungry dog barks.

“I am tired of living in poverty, I want to start a new life,” said Juma with a grin.

However, Juma is now one of many of the village’s residents who have qualified to receive cash handouts as part of the national government’s efforts to lift families out of poverty.

While the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for ending poverty in all its forms by2030, eradicating poverty remains one of the greatest challenges facing humanity.

Although the number of people living in extreme poverty significantly dropped between 1990 and 2015, too many are still struggling for the most basic human needs.

As of 2015, about 736 million people worldwide were still living on less than 1.90 dollars a day, with many lacking food, clean drinking water and sanitation. According to the United Nations, women are more likely to be poor because they have less paid work, education and own less property.

Across Africa, evidence suggests that cash transfer programmes such as those being implemented in Tanzania are effective tools for improving the quality of life of poor people.

A 2013 World Bank study, for example, showed that Tanzania’s cash handout programme substantially reduced income poverty among women and children, and improved their welfare.

The World Bank has been engaging with the Tanzanian government on a range of policy issues and has now agreed financing for the country’s Productive Social Safety Net project which is being implemented by the Tanzania Social Action Trust Fund (TASAF).

A 450-million-dollar initiative under the project, funded by the World Bank and signed in October 2019, seeks to improve food consumption, health care and people’s livelihoods, in addition to increasing the enrolment of children in primary and secondary school education.

“I am very happy to take part in this programme, I believe it’s an important step in my life and for the future of my children,” Juma said happily.

In order to qualify for cash handouts, targeted families have to meet conditions set by a locally elected village committee, which monitors how the cash is spent. For those who fail to comply, the committee will decide on punishments – such as ordering the offender to fetch water for the village clinic for several days or take part in construction work.

An average of 200 dollars per household is then given to families to enable them to invest in small-scale income generating activities such as poultry businesses or vegetable farming.

Juma is entitled to receive 395,000 Tanzanian shillings (approximately 171 dollars) which she will use for setting up a poultry business, keeping and selling chickens to earn a regular income.

“The demand for chicken is big,” she told IDN. “I want to seriously invest in the activity.”

This is not the first time Tanzania has implemented such projects. In the past eight years the government has given cash handouts in three districts, but such initiatives have now been scaled up into the national social safety net system.

Between 2012 and 2015 the government reached one million households including 650,000 households who lived in extreme poverty.

According to the World Bank, the new funding for the safety net project is expected to benefit approximately five million poor Tanzanians, the majority of whom are women. “This new support will be critical to improve the lives of many more people in need and overall raise the country’s human capital index, which is still very low,” said Bella Bird, World Bank Country Director.

Among others, the initiative is aimed at providing income-earning opportunities and socio-economic services for poor families, while providing educational opportunities for their children, according to the World Bank.

Despite a remarkable reduction of extreme poverty rates, a surge in population has pushed up the absolute number of people living in extreme poverty in the past decade, said Muderis Abdulahi Mohammed, World Bank Senior Social Protection Specialist.

The World Bank initiative, however, will allow TASAF to enable poor households to build their assets, human capital and resilience necessary to cushion them from income poverty, officials said. 

“Most poor people often fail to meet their basic needs because they don’t have the means, but once they get the opportunity to earn they usually use it wisely and profitably,” said Haji Semboja, a senior professor of economics at the University of Dar es Salaam. [IDN-InDepthNews – 5 October 2019]

Photo: Zena Athumani, a member of the Kisanga Village Executive Committee, registering details of families which have qualified for the cash handouts as part of Social Safety Net Project run by TASAF. Credit: Edwin Mkendo

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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