Photo: David duChemin, 2015


Marsabit, Kenya, May 23, 2015– For the first time, a scientific study using the same methods that test the efficacy and safety of promising, new drugs has been applied to test the effectiveness of poverty graduation programs. The results published this week in the magazine Science not only give hope that extreme poverty can be eliminated in our lifetime, but that the poverty graduation model pioneered by organizations like The BOMA Project and others is the most effective tool for making that happen.

“This study does not come as a surprise to those of us working on the ground in the field of poverty alleviation” said BOMA Founder and CEO, Kathleen Colson. “Our model of micro-grants and mentoring small groups of women to set up small-businesses has already lifted over 50,000 people out of ultra-poverty in the drylands of Africa. Our goal is to reach 100,000 by 2018. This study is a strong validation of BOMA’s approach to poverty graduation and reinforces our resolve to continue our fight to end extreme poverty in our lifetime.”

BOMA works in Marsabit and Samburu Counties in northern Kenya, a geographically remote and economically and politically neglected “last mile of poverty” where few NGO’s are willing to work. Due to climate change, these areas face longer, more persistent droughts, forcing families that already live in extreme poverty to find new ways of generating income outside of the traditional agrarian model, or perish. BOMA’s carefully adopted and data driven poverty graduation model is designed for scale and replicability across the drylands of Africa, which comprise 40% of the continent and shares similar challenges as northern Kenya, such as frequent and severe droughts compounded by climate change, little or no infrastructure investments, no large employers, a reliance on livestock as a primary livelihood and frequent ethnic conflict over dwindling natural resources.

“Through our unique poverty graduation program, the Rural Entrepreneur Access Project (REAP), we have been delivering hope to some of the poorest women on the planet in some of the hardest to reach areas in Africa,” said Colson in a letter to BOMA supporters announcing the results of the study. “REAP helps these women acquire new skills and establish a sustainable business and savings so they can feed their families, pay for medical care and send their children to school.”

“Much of the news about global poverty is depressing, but this is fabulous: a large-scale experiment showing, with rigorous evidence, what works to lift people out of the most extreme poverty,” wrote Nicholas Kristof of the study in his column for The New York Times. “And it’s exhilarating that one of the lessons may be so simple and human: the power of hope.” Kristof identified BOMA Project as one of the key organizations that are at the forefront of implanting poverty graduation programs for those living on $1.25 a day.

About The BOMA Project

Since January 2009, BOMA has established 2,651 small businesses across Northern Kenya, changing the lives of nearly 8,500 women, who use the income to pay for food, school fees and medical care for more than 42,000 children.