Malawi: Providing Microfinance for People Living with HIV/AIDS and Building Partnerships

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Update to the Global Board
(April 2009)

Overview

The last six months have been truly eventful with considerable happenings that have not only kept us busy, but also motivated and sometimes challenged us. Our objectives included:

  1. Increase food production through farm-input schemes and modern technology trainings;
  2. Monitoring and evaluation of our work, including an internal assessment of the Pilot microfinance initiative for HIV-positive people and an external evaluation of THP-Malawi's program;
  3. Upgrading Mpingo to a full epicenter;
  4. End of year 2008 close-out requirements;
  5. In-country resource mobilization;
  6. Improve access to microfinance services through new loan disbursements, community savings mobilization and loan repayment campaigns; and
  7. Negotiations with Neno district health office (DHO) to commence provision of services for children under five years of age at the Ligowe Epicenter dispensary.


HIV/AIDS Impact Mitigation

In 2006, THP-Malawi discovered that most microfinance initiatives (MFIs) bypass HIV-positive people because they are considered a "risky" lending group. Utilizing its microfinance arm, THP-Malawi, with funding from Novib, allocated K150,000 (approximately US$1,100) to pilot credit scheme exclusively for HIV-positive people, the results of which would be used to advocate for improved access to microfinance services for people infected by HIV/AIDS. An internal assessment of the pilot was done within the reporting period, and indicated a repayment rate of 89.23% (the remaining 10.77% was due to the deaths of three of the group's members, which, if properly hedged, could be managed).

Details on Progress

Food security improved

A total of about 314 metric tons of maize grain, which was stocked in the six epicenter community food banks, was sold to epicenter partners during the quarter and this ensured access to food for our partners.

A total of 1,643 farmers (50% of whom are women) received loans for farm inputs after undergoing modern farming technology trainings. Each one of these farmers has managed to cultivate a total of 1.0 acre of land and is expecting an average maize production of 1.75 tons, an increase over the 0.6 ton which they usually produced before this scheme.

Project to upgrade Mpingo sub-epicenter to full epicenter progressing on schedule

Upgrading works of Mpingo sub-epicenter into full epicenter are now 65% complete and are on schedule. The works include construction of nurses' quarters, a maternity wing, classroom for nursery school pupils and a library. We signed a MOU with the Ministry of Health and Blantyre DHO, who have committed to furnish the maternity wing with necessary equipment and provide nurses and drugs.

Improved access to adult education through Functional Literacy and epicenter nursery schools

There are a total of 107 learning centers with 1,034 active adult learners (930 women). A total of 445 learners graduated during the quarter after being declared literate by the Ministry of Gender and Community Services.

There were 186 pupils (106 girls) in the five epicenter nursery schools.

Access to basic health services improved

Negotiations with Neno DHO to commence provision of under-five clinic services at Ligowe Epicenter dispensary were successful, and services commenced in December 2008. A total of 1,416 children (667 girls) of less than five years of age were immunized in our four functional epicenter dispensaries.

Other services provided included outpatient services, family planning services, psychiatric services and supplementary feeding by the Government of Malawi's Ministry of Health.

Improved community access to microfinance

A total of K2,673,200 (US$19,642) was disbursed to 228 people (133 women and 95 men) as new loans while K3,762,217.76 (US$27,644) was repaid by our partners. A total of K203,000 (US$1,492) was disbursed as new credit to people living with HIV/AIDS. Outstandingly, Champiti, Ligowe and Mpingo Epicenters maintained an on-time repayment rate of 100%, while Jali, Nchalo and Nsondole Epicenters have an average repayment rate of 85%.

Ensure improved people's access to safe drinking water

The 22 boreholes, which THP-Malawi drilled in between 2002 to 2007, were functional during the reporting period and provide safe drinking water to 3,900 households (each household with an average of five people).

Partnerships

During the reporting period, THP-Malawi worked on developing new partnerships, including with one UNICEF through the Neno District Assembly, for the provision of nursery school utilities at Ligowe Epicenter.

THP-Malawi also continued to partner with the relevant ministries and assemblies within the Government of Malawi and with other civil society organizations, namely:

  • Ministry of Social Welfare for epicenter nursery schools management;
  • Ministry of Gender and Community Development as our responsible line ministry as well as for management of our functional literacy program;
  • All local assemblies in the districts we are operating in;
  • MACRO for provision of voluntary testing and council for HIV/AIDS (VCT); and
  • United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for provision of female condoms.

Following THP-Malawi's appointment to play host as secretariat (from 2008 to 2010) of the Malawi Novib Partners Network, comprising four NGOs who are receiving funding directly from Novib (The Hunger Project Malawi, Joint Oxfam Program in Malawi, Malawi Interfaith AIDS Association, CCAO Livingstonia Synod), we submitted a proposal to Novib's KIC department (Knowledge Infrastructure for Change between and among Novib partners), which was funded to support the network operations for the period.

The objectives of this network are:

  1. To provide a platform for sharing information and experience amongst Novib partners and their communities in Malawi on the one hand and between Novib partners and JOPM partners and their communities on the other;
  2. To strategize on engaging important national processes pertaining to HIV/AIDS and sexuality;
  3. Capacity building of network members in line with the work related to HIV/AIDS prevention from a gender and sexuality perspective; and
  4. Communication and dissemination of best practices on HIV/AIDS-related work and rural birth attendant issues.

Broader Awareness and Advocacy

Following a recommendation from the government, Zodiak Radio Station (a private radio station) visited Jali Epicenter as a best practice for community development and effective community participation. They conducted interviews with Jali Epicenter's Chairperson.

Impact Assessment

A Dutch team from The Netherlands, together with THP-Malawi, conducted the first external evaluation of THP-Malawi's program. The report indicates a strong positive impact of our work and further outlines areas for reflection.

An internal impact assessment of the pilot microfinance initiative for People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHIV) was conducted in December 2008, and it established a repayment rate of 89.23% (the remaining 10.77% due to deaths of three of the group's members, which, if properly hedged, could be managed). The report has recommended that we scale-up this initiative to other epicenters.