By Sam Majamanda
Lilongwe, August 4, Mana: “Seeing Sofilet Twaya six years ago you would have shed a tear” claim the neighbors to the 60 year old mother to one (but a caregiver to five children), who has a touching story to share.
Her story begins 10 years back when she lost her husband and was forced to leave the husband’s village which had been home for over 20 years.
“When he died the relatives decided to sale the place we were living at, so I and the children were forced to come back to my home village where I had no place either.”
“My relatives offered me a small kitchen with one extra room to be my house, and in the condition I was it felt like home,” explained Twaya.
She said five more years down the line her life was stagnant because there was literally nothing she could do to make progress.
“I had no money to even start a small business. The only thing we were doing were piece works in order to find food for the day, otherwise even my relatives were not in a position that they could help me out,” she further said.
A believer in God, Twaya said she always kept praying for a miracle, until some day it came in the form of enrollment into the Malawi Government’s Social Cash Transfer Programme.
The Government has been running the Programme through which it disburses free cash to ultra poor and labor constrained households with an aim of boosting their capacity to move forward and attain a considerable level of economic independence.
From 2017 when Twaya started receiving K15000 each month, her road to the dreamed mansion house began opening up.
“I tasked myself to listen and abide by the advice given by our leaders at Social Cash Transfer. So I joined a Community Savings and Investment Programm (COMSIP) group through which I started saving part of my money while using the other chunk to buy food,” she said.
She goes on “after a while, we received training in business management, and this was the time I started borrowing money from the group and started a thobwa business. Then after a little while I started buying tomato and selling.”
The tomato business introduced Twaya to a legumes’ business where she started realizing great profits and after a few more cycles of the same trend of keeping and reinvesting her capital was big enough to try something else.
“So I bought about 50 bags of maize and 20 bags of beans. These I sold after some months during the lean season and the profit was great,” she said.
She continues that this was the time she embarked on her ambitious project.
“I bought iron sheets and ordered the molding of bricks to start at once after I made a good sale at Wakawaka in Lilongwe where I usually go to sale my beans. After this move there was no turning back. I worked hard on my business and soon enough I was buying cement bags, one after another and the house was way up at some level,” she happily explained.
She further laments that luckily at the time she was identified for graduation, the Malawi Government’s partner World Relief came in with bulk cash disbursements meant to boost their businesses’ sustainability, a thing that strengthened her through the completion stages of the house.
The house built in a modern design for the village, has five bedrooms, a living room and an inbuilt bathroom.
The proud owner says aside the comfort of having children in their own rooms ad sparing a visitors’ resting space, the house has allowed her to have one room spared for storage of her merchandize at the time she is waiting for prices to fluctuate.
“Currently I have bought 30 bags of maize which I am keeping. My plan is that the money I will realize out of the sales should be channeled to some good scale of commercial farming in order for me to have two forms of businesses,” she adds.
Apart from the maize she is keeping, Twaya currently runs around the villages with tomato and onions which she says gives her food for the day and helps her sustain her Village Savings and Loans shares and loans.
“I have a good amount of shares and I expect that to help me buy a few things for the new house such as new furniture when we share the proceeds at the end of this year,” she keeps on laying her plans.
Allan Kayange a Filed Officer for World Relief in the district has commended the hardworking spirit in the old widow and many other women who put more efforts to attain economic independence and not continue relying on the Social Safety Net entitlements.
He said his organization and several others that are complementing government efforts in assisting households to sustainably graduate from the programme realize that free things may not be sustainable hence the need for households to take savings and businesses seriously.
“By the end of the day everyone will have to graduate or perhaps the programme might end in the future, so there is no room for someone to stay forever on the programme that’s why every beneficiary needs to be working towards attaining self economic sustenance,” he added.
The case of Sofilet Twaya stands out to be a typical portrayal of how vulnerable persons such as women and child headed household heads can be capable when they put their hearts into working towards attaining their desired economic independence.