Social Conditions

Basic Needs Basket (BNB)
A. Urban Basic Needs Basket (UBNB)

This project which is under the Social Conditions Research Programme of the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) focuses on researching into the cost of living for people living in Malawi’s medium and high-density urban areas every month. Currently the monthly surveys are done in Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu, Zomba, Mangochi and Karonga with data collected from 33 markets and retail outlets and 124 households in total. The Basic Needs Basket (BNB) includes both essential food items such as maize, beans, vegetables, potatoes and cooking oil, and non-food items such as utility bills, housing (rent), charcoal, bathing soap and washing soap, required for an average family of six, to acquire a minimum standard of living per month. Though other data such as cost of education and transport are collected at quarterly basis, they are not included in our Basket.

The results of our UBNB survey is an indicator of the Socio-economic situation across the urban areas in Malawi. It highlights the gap between the cost of living in these cities and the typical income levels of an ordinary Malawian family. The UBNB results are used to advocate for change, justice, a better wage, fairer policies and a dignified existence in Malawi. For the participating households, this data helps them to budget effectively to meet their basic needs.

The Urban BNB is circulated via e-mail to various organizations, including selected government ministries, embassies and individuals.

B. Rural Basic Needs Basket Project

The Rural Basic Needs Basket (RBNB) is the project under the Social Conditions Research Programme of the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC). RBNB tool is used by the CfSC to assess household food and non-food items consumption pattern, average monthly income and access to social services such as health, education, water and infrastructure. Food consumption tables are used to calculate the amount of calories consumed by individual household members in a month. The figure is then compared with the recommended calories per person per day of 2400 kilocalories by World Health Organisation (WHO).

Quarterly Data Collection

The project was being implemented in 4 districts of Lilongwe rural, Dedza, Zomba and Chikwawa, but Zomba district has now been weaned since December 2019. In total, we now have 130 households in the 3 districts.

Households are given sheets on which they record any activity that happens in the house such as the food consumed on daily basis, any income from different sources, expenditures on food and non-food items. This information is used to calculate the cost of living in the rural areas. Part of this information is used in the press statements. This information is also used by Advocacy Group members during interface meetings with duty bearers.

Advocacy Strategies and Active Citizenship

In collaboration with partner organizations such as Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Advocacy Group Members were identified and trained in Human Rights, Social Accountability monitoring and Lobbying and Advocacy with the aim of empowering them to hold duty bearers accountable on whatever they do in their constituents. They were trained to do research on issues related to development which effect their day to day lives in their localities. The groups comprise selected households from which we collect quarterly data and Community Based Educators of CCJP.

Feedback meetings are held with Advocacy Groups in order to document issues to be presented to the duty bearers during interface meetings. After these feedback meetings, interface meetings are held during which Advocacy Group members present their development issues to the duty bearers for them to give feedback on how the problems are going to be tackled. Another advocacy strategy which is used to publicize issues is the use of electronic and print media.

This strategy of using community-based advocacy group members has made them to own the development process and that they are now able to hold duty bearers accountable even in the absence of CCJP and CfSC.

As a way of achieving project sustainability, one Advocacy Group was trained in fundraising strategies such as proposal development and it has so far registered as a CBO and is able to respond to local calls for proposals and has so far been given bicycles by a certain organization by the name of One Community to ease their mobility.