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Document Abstract
Published: 2001

Participation and impact of poverty-oriented public works projects in rural Malawi

An evaluation on the efficacy of self-targeting in public works projects in Malawi
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The government of Malawi's attempts at a national-scale public works programme first came into reality in 1995 on a pilot basis, and later in July 1996 as a national intervention programme under the name Malawi Social Action Fund (MASAF). MASAF was established as one of the poverty alleviation instruments designed to address community social needs within the context of a wider safety net programme, including the agricultural ‘starter pack’ and food for work programmes. The public works programme is just one of the many efforts by government, non-governmental organisations and international organisations to reduce the level of poverty in Malawi – estimated at 54 per cent of the population in 1995. Most of the social and living conditions indicators in Malawi in the early 1990s were not encouraging, in 1995 the infant mortality rate was estimated at 133 per 1000 live births, only 48.4 per cent of the population had access to safe sources of drinking water, 48 per cent of infants were stunted, and 30 per cent were underweight.

This study evaluates the efficacy of self-targeting in public works projects by setting the wage below the minimum wage, and identifies factors which influence the revealed positive impact of the programme on the livelihoods of participants. The paper’s outline is as follows:
  • Review of the role of public works programmes as a poverty alleviation strategy.
  • Description of the MASAF public works programme in Malawi, focusing on its design features and implementation strategies.
  • Description of the methodology and data used in the analysis.
  • Report of empirical results on the factors that determine participation, the extent of public works employment, and impact of the public works programme on the socio-economic status of participants.
The results of this study suggest that the programme largely targets the poor through its use of a wage rate below the official minimum wage, with the probability of participation increasing with characteristics associated with poverty in rural Malawi.
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E.W. Chirwa; E.K. Zgovu; P.M. Mvula

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