The BOMA Project helps vulnerable women in Kenya’s arid lands
adapt to climate change by starting small businesses in their villages, which enables them to develop a
diversified livelihood. Its Rural Entrepreneur Access Project (REAP) targets the poorest and most
vulnerable women in each community, most of whom live on less than $1.25 per day. REAP builds resilience to
climate change because it enables women to own productive assets, which generate income and are not tied to
the drought-threatened livestock industry.
- 32,000 women and children have been lifted out of extreme poverty;
- Monthly spending per household has increased: 71 per cent for food; 921 per cent for school fees; 97
per cent for medical care; and 189 per cent for household improvements such as nylon tarps and mosquito
- 99 per cent of REAP businesses are still in operation after one year, generating income and savings for
REAP targets ultra‐poor women in rural villages across Northern Kenya, a region where climate change
has devastated the traditional livestock industry. Women and children are most vulnerable: as the men
travel in search of grazing terrain, their families are left in the villages, typically without food or
income. BOMA benefits the enterprising poor – marginalized, often‐illiterate women who are
willing to work hard to change their lives – by giving them the skills and resources they need to
start a business.
Diversified income allows them to pay for food, education, household assets and medical care, while savings
allow them to respond to shocks. This two‐pronged approach addresses the root cause of extreme
poverty in Northern Kenya – drought – while paving the way for a generation of change.
Taking supplies across the Kaisut desert
Buying school supplies
REAP is a two‐year poverty graduation program that provides a cash grant, sustained training in
business skills and savings, and hands‐on coaching by BOMA Village Mentors to business groups of
three women. When the businesses are established and generating profits, at six months, Mentors work with
REAP groups to form BOMA savings associations. As a result of being lifted out of poverty, the women become
more resilient to climate change.
Since January 2009, BOMA has established 1,380 REAP businesses and 176 savings associations in 20 settled
villages and 250 nomadic settlements across Northern Kenya. BOMA has lifted 32,000 women and children out
of extreme poverty; its goal is to reach 100,000 within five years.
For women, by women
When a woman joins REAP, her status in the village rises. Once selling firewood, hauling water and begging
for credit, the women are now business owners and quasi‐bankers, as REAP businesses are often the
only local source of affordable goods, cash and credit. The women now hold capital, both financial and
social. They have gone from being beggars to lenders. They are leaders in their homes, where they no longer
rely on their husbands for support, and also are pursuing education: at three years, 41 per cent are
enrolled in an adult literacy program. REAP also promotes gender equality and builds the capacity of women
to contribute to an emerging cash‐based economy.
Smart climate finance
In April 2013, BOMA signed a $1.9 million, three‐year agreement with the UK Department of
International Development to launch 1,338 micro‐enterprises across the greater Marsabit District of
Northern Kenya, providing a diversified livelihood for 4,014 pastoral women who support more than 20,070
children. REAP is also expanding in the Samburu District, with 40 businesses in 2012, 81 in 2013 and an
equivalent number planned for 2014.
Mentor MariaGrazia Khoyan
BOMA business owner dining near Kargi
Images owned by the activity partners, all rights reserved.