When 54-year-old Chief Phiri lost two of his brothers, and their wives in a short span of time, his life was shattered.
Phiri from Manguwa village in the area of Senior Chief Mabulabo found himself keeping and caring for a family of 16, his children, his brother's children, and his 81-year-old ailing mother.
Life for Phiri became very hard, apart from searching for their everyday food he had to ensure that the children were at school.
"We were living in abject poverty we wouldn't know where our next meal would come from though I was doing farming but I couldn't harvest enough due to lack of money to buy inputs", said Phiri.
However, in 2014 the tide changed for Phiri after group village headman Venge Baloyi identified his family of 16 as one of the poorest families in his area to be considered in the government-run Social Cash Transfer program.
" When I was told that I have been included in the number of those earmarked for the social cash transfer program I was excited finally God has come to my aid", said Phiri.
Since then Phiri has not looked back, with K11,000 a month from the program he has managed to change the fortunes of his extended family.
He has managed to buy pigs, built an iron-roofed house while sending his children to school.
"Now am doing fine I am managing to pay for three children who are in secondary school, one has completed secondary education and now is at a teachers training college all these from the little we get from the social cash transfer program," says Phiri while showing us his pig kraal close to his homestead.
Another person who is reaping the fruits of the social cash transfer program is 52-year-old Nathan Zimba of Amon Zimba village also in the area of senior Chief Mabulabo.
Zimba was a drunkard, life to him revolved around doing piece jobs in other people's farms and drowning his sorrows in home-distilled liquor.
His wife attests to the dire poverty his drunkenness subjected them to.
"We were sleeping on the bare floor with no blankets in a grass-thatched house that leaked during the rainy season", says the wife.
In fact, after enduring a lot due to Zimba's habitual drinking they had to separate where the wife went to live with her parents.
But all this is now history as they are now united, living in their iron sheet roofed house and food is no longer a problem for them and their five children.
" I am a living example of those who have benefited a lot from the cash transfer program which has taught me a lot in fact now I am a transformed person," says Zimba.
Apart from having a good iron sheet roofed house Zimba boasts a motorcycle which he uses as Kabaza around the area.
Just like Chief Phiri, Zimba also hails the lessons they have learned through the cash transfer program.
"Using the knowledge I learned together, with my wife we decided to buy soya beans which we sold at over half a million and bought the motorbike but now my dream is to buy a vehicle and I know that I will achieve this very soon", says Zimba.
The government implemented Social cash transfer program is being complemented by some other partners whose main aim is to see the beneficiaries graduate from the program and become self-reliant.
Through such projects, some social cash transfer beneficiaries have now joined Village Savings and Loans VSL groups as one way of empowering themselves.
Others have even been taught other vocational skills. Chief Phiri is now a good tailor thanks to the Pathways for Successful Transition project implemented by Save the Children Malawi.
" I am now a good tailor, I can make shirts, dresses and very soon will be making jackets".
Phiri says through his tailoring in a good month he can make as much as K60,000
The Social Cash Transfer Program was first initiated in the districts of Mchinji, Machinga, and Salima but after noting its impact in changing the lives of the ultra-poor government scaled it to other districts like Mzimba in 2014.
The program mainly aims at alleviating the poverty of ultra-poor households, ensuring that children are going to school as well as improving their household nutrition.
The beneficiaries are identified through traditional leaders who scout for them based on their vulnerabilities in the communities they are living in.
Among others the ultra-poor households are chosen based on their vulnerability to find food, having large families following deaths of relations, and being aged to the extent that one can not be able to cultivate his or her garden
The government gives funds to benefiting families ranging from K5000 to K11000 based on the magnitude of challenges they are facing.
Shadreck Mingu Social Welfare officer in charge of the social cash transfer program in Mzimba district says the program has transformed lives in Mzimba south where households have moved from abject poverty to being able to fend for themselves
"The government gives money to a household if the household has only one member the government gives not less than K5000, if the household has more than one person they get K7000 but if the household has some children who are in school the money they get goes up so the money they receive depends on how large the family is", said Mingu
Mingu said currently the program has 14500 households in the whole of Mzimba district where 9572 are in Mzimba south
"Since I started working in this program I have seen many households move out of poverty and are now owning livestock, they have built houses whose roofs have iron sheets so yes many households have transformed their fortunes," said Mingu.
Mingu hailed other partners like Save the Children who are implementing the Pathways for Successful Transition project which complements efforts to ensure that the benefiting households graduate from the program and become self-reliant a thing which will give a chance to others to join the initiative.
"Ideally the beneficiaries are supposed to be under the program for four years but because of reasons like continued poverty some overstay," said Mingu.
However, Mingu said there are some challenges that need ironing out to improve the implementation of the program.
He said as the program relies on partners sometimes money trickles in very late and then there is always the anticipation that the donors may stop their funding hence the need to ensure that the beneficiaries are linked to other interventions which can sustain their livelihoods.
The social cash transfer program is being bankrolled by the European Union.