The BOMA Project | Kenya

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.

Fast facts:

  • 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 nets;
  • 99 per cent of REAP businesses are still in operation after one year, generating income and savings for vulnerable women.
The BOMA Project
Taking supplies across the Kaisut desert

The problem

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.

​​Buying school supplies

The solution

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.

Mentor Maria Grazia Khoyan

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.

BOMA business owner dining near Kargi


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