A quick google of the words famine, drought and Africa brings up a remarkable number of articles and blog posts.  The Guardian in the UK has a terrific blog called Poverty Matters and recent posts include a review of a book, “Pastoralism and Development in Africa” as well as a criticism of the US Food Aid budget, “Corporate Welfare for US Grain Giants”.

This is not a tragedy – this is the face of success. Three BOMA entrepreneurs with pack donkeys head to the settled village of Korr to replenish supplies for their nomadic village kiosk selling soap, tea, sugar and other simple items. These women are feeding, educating and providing medical care for their children, as well as accumulating savings to survive drought periods.

Climate change and droughts are devastating communities in the Horn of Africa and women and children remain the most vulnerable victims.  What we are seeing on the ground in northern Kenya is a number of interventions for climate change adaptation and resilience-building around the livestock industry but this ignores the fact that women and children are increasingly left behind in the villages, sometimes for as long as six months, as men travel farther and longer in search of grazing terrain and water.  With little hope of employment beyond menial labor, like hauling water or gathering firewood, women are forced to beg for credit and rely on humanitarian food aid to survive.  At The BOMA Project, we believe that strategies to build long-term resilience in these communities must go beyond a focus on men and the vulnerable livestock industry.

BOMA’s focus is on the economic empowerment of women living in the rural drylands of Africa.  We not only help build sustainable income levels for women so that they can survive drought, feed their families and pay for school fees and medical care.  We also focus on the problems of inconsistent cash flow and inadequate financial services so that women can accumulate savings for long-term stability.  Here is where we stake our claim: To date we have launched 925 businesses of 3300 adults who support over 17,000 children in Samburu, Laisamis, Loiyanglani and Marsabit Districts of northern Kenya.  Our recent Impact Assessment of businesses at one year and three years underscores the success of an economic empowerment program that focuses on women: 63% decrease in the number of children going to bed hungry at least once a month; 89% increase in the number of participants eating two meals a day; 67% increase in the number of children attending school and a 41% increase in the number of women attending adult literacy programs.  82% of all participants are actively saving and lending money through their business or BOMA saving groups.

Women play a key role in supporting their households and communities in achieving food and nutrition security, generating income, and improving rural livelihoods.  In order to break the cycle of poverty, climate change adaptation strategies for northern Kenya, and for all the rural drylands of Africa, must include a focus on women.

Over the next few months, I will be posting as many comments as I can on blogs and news reports to raise awareness of the need for programs that focus on the plight of women and children in drought-affected regions of rural Africa. If you believe in the dignity of the human spirit, and in the power of women and mothers who seek to not only survive but thrive in their traditional homelands, then you can help us: Please share and post this blog.