FOM and Village X Fight Extreme Poverty in Rural Malawi

Saturday January 19, 2019

One of FOM’s grantees is Village X, a nonprofit startup operating in Malawi.  Village X helps finance publlic good projects chosen by extreme poverty villages in rural areas.  Examples include clean water wells, nursery schools, and goat herds. These projects help villages disrupt extreme poverty, which afflicts about 13 million people in Malawi, about 70% of the population, according to the World Poverty Clock.  Village X was co-founded by Mike Buckler (RPCV Malawi ‘06-08) and a Malawian named Myson Jambo, who was one of Mike’s students at Khwalala Community Day Secondary School in Mulanje District.

A few things make Village X unique.  First, Village X employs a cash transfer model that’s efficient and scalable.  Mike and Myson realized that villages remained poor due to a lack of direct financing.  Second, Village X requires villages to contribute their own cash to projects, not just labor and materials.  Consequently, villages have real skin in the game. Third, Village X promotes democracy by putting villages 100% in charge of project selection, planning, and implementation.  Finally, on an annual basis, Village X collects data from partner and control villages and reports development impacts of its model. Village X’s ultimate goal is the creation of an online democracy map that shows data and project preferences for every extreme poverty village in Malawi.  Such a map would help the Malawian government, donor agencies, NGOs, and churches align programming with local needs.

From 2014 to 2017, villages receiving cash from Village X decisively outperformed control villages. Measured impacts included 93% and 109% increases, respectively, in boys and girls in nursery school, a 63% increase in girls in high school, a 77% increase in goats, a 68% reduction in waterborne illnesses, a 123% increase in non-agricultural businesses, a 62% increase in homes with metal roofs, and a 138% increase in overall development score.

The entire program cost only $7,000 per village over three years, or $2,300 per year on average. That works out to only $1.08 per person per year. Malawi receives roughly $1 billion annually in foreign aid. A small fraction of that money (around 1% or $12 million) could be used to bring Village X’s model to every extreme poverty village in Malawi.

FOM has helped finance several Village X projects.  For example, in 2017, FOM granted $2,000 for a goat project in Likoswe Village, Chiradzulu District.  In 2018, FOM granted $1,363 and $2,000, respectively, for nursery schools in Jemus Village and Chikumbu Village, both located in Zomba District.  FOM has also contributed to the following projects documented on Village X’s website:

With the rainy season in full bloom in Malawi, Village X’s partner villages are busy cultivating and planning projects for 2019.  Starting around March 2019, as rains dissipate and roads become passable again, Village X projects will resume, with much appreciated support from FOM.

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