Impact Evaluation 2012
When participants join the REAP program, BOMA Village Mentors fill out a Standard of Living Index (SOLI) form that establishes baseline information on nutrition, income and household assets. This data is used as the basis for impact evaluations at one year and three years, measuring change in participants’ lives over time. In February and April 2012, Emma Impink, the 2011-2012 BOMA Fellow, conducted an impact evaluation of REAP businesses that had been in operation for one year and three years, using the SOLI as well as open-ended questions.
The impact evaluation focused on three areas:
- How businesses function in terms of operations (profit distribution among members, how they attract customers, if they have diversified or changed their approach, their ability to save and their overall value)
- Changes in the lives of REAP participants using baseline data and tracing measurable outcomes over time to assess monthly food consumption, household assets, sources of income and expenditures for the family.
- Information about REAP at the program level
In January 2011 businesses endured one of the worst droughts in the past decade. Food prices spiked nationally, exacerbated by the infrastructural deficits of Northern Kenya (poor road networks, limited transportation, finite wholesale access and already-inflated prices), yet their businesses survived and injected essential cash into the local economy. Particularly in nomadic villages, where REAP businesses are often among the few commercial enterprises, access to cash and essential goods is critical, especially during periods of drought when livestock prices are lowest.
Main Findings at One Year:
- 99% of businesses are still in operation
- 83% of participants reported an increase in the amount of times per month that they eat rice. This is significant because rice is not distributed as humanitarian food aid; it must be purchased
- 52% of participants in reported an increase in the amount of times per month that they eat meat. This indicates that the family can afford to purchase meat and is eating more protein.
- There was a 63% decrease in the number of participants who put their children to bed without any food.
As REAP participants increase their incomes and savings, they are putting more cash into local economies. REAP participants are sending more of their children to school, buying food for their families, paying for medical care and making improvements to their houses. The impact evaluation documented the following changes in expenditures from Intake to Year One:
- 921% increase in school expenditures
- 189% increase in household improvements
- 71% increase in food expenditures
- 108% increase in clothing expenditures
- 97% increase in medical expenditures
More business groups are actively setting money aside to address expenses through the creation of formal savings groups. Participants are committing more of their money to savings, which reflects a desire to plan for future expenses. This move toward more committed savings reflects a shift in BOMA’s priorities and training, and demonstrates the significant efforts of BOMA Village Mentors to assist groups in setting up relevant and realistic contribution systems. It also reflects a positive response among the communities of Northern Kenya; participants are enthusiastic about savings.
- 81.8% of REAP businesses in the one-year survey are actively saving money and have at least one form of savings (either personal savings, business savings or membership in a BOMA savings group).
Main Findings at Three Years
Studying the participants again at three years is particularly significant as the businesses have been on their own for one year, following two years of business mentoring by BOMA Village Mentors. The three-year evaluation provided change-over-time data for comparisons with intake SOLI data and one-year impact evaluation data. While REAP businesses under the current program are groups of three women, originally the program included both adult men and women in groups of five individuals. This study is a reflection of impacts on five-member business groups that received seed capital grants and business skills training in 2009.
The top five benefits of REAP businesses as articulated by participants in the three-year evaluation are: the ability to pay school fees for their children, improved diets and better access to nutritious foods, increased access to credit to pay for large expenses, no longer having to beg for credit or food and increased access to medical care and medicine. All of the operating businesses believe their enterprises will continue for the foreseeable future. None of them anticipate their businesses stopping or failing any time soon.
- 97% of the businesses are still in operation at three years
- 77.7% more school-aged children are enrolled in school at three years than were at program intake.
Since program intake, REAP participants have increased the number of meals they eat per day, the number of cups of tea they drink per day and the number of times their tea has sugar, demonstrating their ability to purchase sugar, a luxury item. They are able to eat new foods that they could not afford before, foods like fruit, vegetables, rice, chapati, meat and pasta. REAP participants are not just eating these foods on special occasions; they are eating them every day.
REAP participants are also able to make structural improvements to their residences and are, in some cases, constructing more permanent homes. They are able to buy new items for their households and things for themselves and their families that go beyond essentials.
REAP participants decreased their reliance on dangerous (and low paying) menial jobs, on the financial assistance of relatives and on the inconsistent income of spouses. They are gaining financial independence and control of spending for their households and families.
From the one-year evaluation to the three-year evaluation, average total business values increased 30.3%. The concept of group savings is culturally appropriate for residents of Northern Kenya, where there is limited access to formal financial institutions. The increases in the amount of savings held by individuals and businesses were significant:
- 57.7% of representative individuals have personal savings
- 73.1% of REAP businesses have savings as a business
- 67.7% of REAP businesses are members of a BOMA savings group
BOMA Savings Groups are now an integral part of the REAP model. Comprised of three to eight REAP groups, the businesses make regular contributions to the savings pool, which is then used as a source of credit, with established guidelines and lending rules for REAP business expansion and individual interest-bearing loans. The need for savings is particularly acute during extended drought, when men are gone with the livestock herds and the women and children are left in the villages. Savings allow families to survive, even if REAP businesses see a related drop in revenues. They provide a critical financial safety net that helps mothers to feed their families and keep their children in school, even during hard times.
To download an executive summary of the 2012 one- and three-year impact evaluations, click here.