NANYUKI, KENYA — On October 19, Kathleen Colson and Kura Omar, co-founders of The BOMA Project, signed an agreement with the Government of Kenya (GOK) to pilot BOMA’s poverty graduation program in a new region in Northern Kenya. The pilot will enroll 1,600 women in BOMA’s holistic two-year program in Samburu County. Funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries, the pilot is aimed at integrating the poverty graduation approach into the government’s social protection systems.
Through the Treasury Ministry’s Programme for Rural Outreach of Financial Innovations and Technologies (PROFIT), BOMA will provide participants with support for household consumption and healthcare, seed capital to launch a small business, and two years of hands-on mentoring and training. The women will use the income and savings to support more than 8,000 children in 18 village clusters.
PROFIT’s goal is to increase incomes and reduce poverty in Kenya, with a special focus on rural areas and the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs). BOMA was identified as an implementing partner under guidance from BRAC, a leading global development organization that pioneered the poverty graduation model and is serving as the technical advisor to the Kenyan government. BOMA has adapted BRAC’s model with a specific focus on women within the unique context of the ASALs.
Also in October, BOMA announced an agreement with Mercy Corps to replicate BOMA’s poverty graduation model in five countries across the ASALs, including Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania. The partnership kicked off with the enrollment of 240 women in the Turkana and Wajir counties of Northern Kenya.
“By embedding our program in the social-protection system of the Kenyan government—and scaling it across the ASALs with Mercy Corps—we will reach tens of thousands of ultra-poor households with a life-changing program of hope,” says Colson. “These milestone agreements mean that BOMA has transitioned from making an impact to solving a problem that affects millions of women and children across the drylands of Africa.” The ASALs represent 40 percent of the African continent.
According to the PROFIT agreement with the Government of Kenya, BOMA will test a number of components of the poverty graduation approach, including BOMA’s unique three-person model versus a one-person model, and a conditional cash transfer versus an asset transfer. All participants will be provided with six months of additional household consumption support, health insurance for participants and their families, and a cellular phone to access M-Pesa or a similar mobile money transfer service. Rigorous monitoring and an external evaluation of results will allow the Government of Kenya to determine the best approach for scaling the model to reach a significant number of families living in extreme poverty in the country’s rural ASAL regions.
BOMA’s Rural Entrepreneur Access Project (REAP) is a two-year poverty graduation program that provides participants with seed capital to launch small, sustainable businesses in their rural villages; hands-on coaching by full-time local mentors; sustained training in business skills, savings, financial literacy and life skills; and access to financial institutions and markets. The gender-focused, evidence-based program invests in and empowers women to break the cycle of extreme poverty and build resilient households.
Since 2009, BOMA has reached 11,502 women across Northern Kenya who use the income and savings from their BOMA businesses to support 57,510 children. BOMA’s goal is to reach 100,000 women and children by 2018, and one million women and children within five years, by scaling the model across the ASALs through government adoption and partnerships with NGOs.
REAP has proven to be an effective, life-changing approach to achieving four of the United Nations’ most urgent Sustainable Development Goals: 1) ending extreme poverty, 2) ending hunger, 3) combating climate change impacts, and 4) achieving gender equity by 2030. According to BOMA’s rigorous impact evaluations, an average of 92% of participants have “graduated” from extreme poverty at the end of the two-year REAP program, based on BOMA’s strict criteria related to food security, sustainable livelihoods, shock preparedness and human capital investment.
“The United Nations and the global community recently committed to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and achieving gender equity by 2030. For populations living in the last mile of extreme poverty and economic isolation, and regions ravaged by the adverse impacts of climate change, BOMA is providing a transformative solution to achieve these goals by investing in and empowering women,” says Colson. “Our work has never been more important.”
About The BOMA Project: The BOMA Project is a U.S. nonprofit and Kenyan NGO that implements a sustainable, high-impact poverty graduation program for extremely poor women in the ASALs of Africa. In 2016, BOMA was among the first four nonprofits worldwide to pass a rigorous “impact audit” conducted by Impact Matters, an organization led by Yale economist Dean Karlan that helps donors to identify nonprofits that offer the best return on charitable dollars. For more information, go to http://bomaproject.org/.