In 1996 the Government of Malawi launched the Malawi Social Action Fund (MASAF), which supported the construction of village assets and a public works programme. This report presents the findings of a review of MASAF by a multi-disciplinary team from three well-known research institutions.
The team collected data from key informant interviews, a review of project monitoring data and studies at 121 sub-project sites consisting of a checklist survey of the state of repair of the asset, a key informant interview, a questionnaire survey of 9 households and focus group discussions at 15 sites. This provided a unique source of data on the performance of an African social fund. The report assesses the degree to which the project provided benefits to the poor and contributed to pro-poor institutional development.
The conclusions are mixed. A high proportion of the resources provided benefits in terms of new infrastructure or employment in public works. There was not much leakage of funds to the better off, nor was there much targeting of the poorest and most vulnerable. The report discusses the relationship between MASAF, the national government, local authorities and community structures. It explores how a demand-led approach interacted with sector planning and the devolution of powers to local government. It also explores the degree to which MASAF succeeded in democratising decision-making.
One unexpected finding was the great influence of traditional leaders. The report concludes by discussing lessons for the implementation of Malawi?s poverty reduction strategy. The report is of particular relevance to people with a special interest in Malawi and those working on institutional development in Africa.