For many communities and individuals around the world, Earth Day comes and goes without any fanfare. In these places, the relationship between humans and the environment is as natural as the earth itself. But as commonplace as living side by side with the natural world may be, this relationship is growing increasingly under threat, and increasingly deadly. From longer droughts to inconsistent rainy seasons, the climate is becoming more erratic, and the planet is changing. In regions like the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) of northern Kenya, these changes are threatening a way of life that has persisted for centuries. Communities that once relied on regular rain for crops and cattle are now faced with multi-year-yearlong droughts, and when the rain comes, it falls so suddenly and hard that flash floods tear through homes and entire towns.

Despite the uncertainty that many currently face and a future that looks even more dire for the next generation, hope does persist. This hope takes the form of increased community-level action: from natural resource management and stewardship to promoting climate-resilient economic inclusion, models like our REAP for Climate Resilience, in close partnership with organizations like the Bohemian Foundation, offer a better way forward for both people and planet.

To tackle one of world’s most pressing and pervasive issues, one must first fully understand the problem or in this case, the compound nature of crises. As many are aware, the root of extreme poverty cannot be narrowed down to a single cause, but rather a spectrum that creates its multidimensional nature. Within this spectrum sits those directly related to our environment, which includes resource scarcity, quickened environmental degradation, and climate/weather-related shocks like droughts and floods.

Like the vicious, multigenerational cycle of poverty, the root causes of environmental degradation are equally complex and varied. An ecosystem’s health can be negatively impacted in many ways, a key reason being pervasive and long-lasting levels of poverty. The struggle to survive knows no limits. It is for this reason that if we want to truly put a stop to the destruction of natural environments, we must place a bigger emphasis on one of the key roots of the problem: poverty. The two are intrinsically connected and have been since the dawn of the Industrial Age, the time when our relationship with the natural world around us changed the face of the Earth, and society as we know it.

While the state of environmental conservation and planetary degradation may seem insurmountable to some, we have seen with our own eyes the positive impact that targeted, well designed, holistic economic inclusion programming can have on people and planet. While our solutions may seem straight forward, their impact has changed the lives of thousands of individuals, families, and communities, and showed that improving one’s socioeconomic status can help the planet, not hurt it.

As a major supporter of BOMA and countless other organizations around the globe, the Bohemian Foundation not only provides funding to directly address the root causes of poverty and climate change, but works to help educate, mentor, and fund the next generation of entrepreneurs interested in making a positive difference. Bohemian Foundation’s climate strategy recognizes that issues facing communities are interlinked and intersecting. “We invest in BOMA because BOMA’s programs are multi-solving for the polycrises of climate change, poverty, and gender disparity. Investing in these intersectional solutions has a multiplier impact that is responsive to the whole life experience of communities,” says Jackie Kozak Thiel, Global Programs Director at Bohemian Foundation.

The Foundation’s support has allowed BOMA to refine and adapt our standard REAP approach to create our REAP for Climate Resilience model that works to provide a pathway out of starvation-level poverty for the people most impacted by climate change. We do this by designing programs that focus on the following three pillars in Kenya: “greening” livelihoods, creating “green” systems, and “greening” values.

Given the rich history of the traditionally pastoral communities we work with in northern Kenya, program design can help promote the establishment of “green” enterprises during livelihood selection and development. By designating income generating activities as supportive (aloe, beekeeping, gums and resins, tree nurseries, ecotourism, sale of clean cookstoves and locally produced briquettes, etc.) or neutral commodity sales (kiosks/dukas), grocery, tailoring, cereal banking, beads, crafts and curio, and barber shops), we can not only track the impact our participants are having on their ecosystems, but help them pursue those with the least carbon footprint.

In taking a bottom up, participatory approach to building climate resilience, our adapted model helps support existing and creates new structures to advocate for policy and structural changes. This helps create an enabling environment for sustainable resource management and climate-neutral micro, small, and medium enterprises that benefit the entire community. This is another reason Bohemian Foundation supports BOMA, because “BOMA is for and of the communities they serve: from their community-based mentors to their CEO, Kenyan Dr. Sam Owilly.”

Lastly, to ensure a long-lasting approach that can be passed down from participants and adopted at the household and community levels, the third pillar works to change social norms, attitudes, and practices by placing a focus on natural resource management (NRM) within the training curriculum taught by mentors in the business and savings groups. This is conducted throughout program participation and builds on the topics of land, water, forest, and pasture management, participatory forest management cooperatives, community stewardship of forests and protected land, and community outreach to promote social cohesion and gender-sensitive methods of restoration and management.

Earth Day reminds us that all of us share this home. As we work together to care for our planet, we must also care for each other. It is an unfortunate fact that those who are most impacted by climate change, meaning the hundreds of millions of people living in extreme poverty, are the ones who contribute to it least; but by integrating targeted and well-designed interventions that tackle the core roots of these big problems, together we can help ensure a more healthy, productive planet for future generations.

To make a special donation in honor of this year’s Earth Day, please visit our gifting page here.