Participants in BOMA’s innovative poverty graduation program attend a skills-training session in the village of Kargi, Northern Kenya. Photo by India Bulkeley

Nanyuki, Northern KenyaThe BOMA Project and Mercy Corps have joined forces to tackle extreme poverty by replicating the Rural Entrepreneur Access Project (REAP), BOMA’s innovative poverty graduation model, in five countries across the drylands of Africa. 

REAP is a gender-focused, evidence-based program that invests in and empowers women to break the cycle of extreme poverty and build resilient households in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) of Africa. The ASALs comprise 40% of the continent and represent the true “last mile” of global extreme poverty. The region is home to 50 million African pastoralists and agro-pastoralists whose traditional livelihood—tending livestock—has been devastated by climate change, in the form of severe, recurring drought.

The partnership has kicked off with the enrollment of 240 women facing extreme poverty in the Turkana and Wajir counties of Northern Kenya. The pilot is providing the women—120 in each county—with seed capital to launch small, sustainable businesses in their rural villages. The two-year REAP program also provides hands-on coaching by full-time local mentors; sustained training in business skills, savings, financial literacy and life skills; and access to financial institutions and markets.

Since 2009, BOMA has reached 11,502 women across Northern Kenya who use the income and savings from their BOMA businesses to support 57,510 children. BOMA’s goal is to reach 100,000 women and children by 2018, and one million women and children within five years.

“Our aim is to scale our model across the ASALs through government adoption and partnerships with NGOs,” says BOMA founder and CEO Kathleen Colson. “The agreement with Mercy Corps is an exciting and important step toward that goal. Both BOMA and Mercy Corps are committed to creating transformative change in the world’s most fragile and marginalized regions, and we share key values, including a belief in human dignity and the ability of all people to thrive.”

As a gender-focused program that targets women living in extreme poverty and gives them the skills and resources they need to earn an income, establish savings and build resiliency, REAP has proven to be an effective, life-changing approach to achieving four of the United Nations’ most urgent Sustainable Development Goals: ending extreme poverty, ending hunger, combating climate change impacts and achieving gender equity by 2030. According to its rigorous impact evaluations, an average of 92% of participants have “graduated” from extreme poverty at the end of the two-year REAP program, based on BOMA’s strict criteria related to food security, sustainable livelihoods, shock preparedness  and  human capital investment.

“Women in these communities are incredibly resilient and if we can connect them to the right resources, they have enormous potential to overcome the tough challenges they face and transform their communities,” says Lynn Renken, Kenya Country Director for Mercy Corps. “Our work with BOMA can help communities make dynamic change in order to break through deep cycles of poverty and ultimately become stronger.”

“BOMA and Mercy Corps are partnering to help people build stronger communities and find their own solutions to poverty,” says Colson. “Together, we can change families’ lives in the poorest, hardest places of the planet, while making a meaningful contribution to the growing coalition that’s committed to scaling poverty graduation programs globally.”


About The BOMA Project: The BOMA Project is a U.S. nonprofit and Kenyan NGO that implements a sustainable, high-impact poverty graduation program for extremely poor women in the ASALs of Africa. In 2016, BOMA was among the first four nonprofits worldwide to pass a rigorous “impact audit” conducted by Impact Matters, an organization led by Yale economist Dean Karlan that helps donors to identify nonprofits that offer the best return on charitable dollars.  For more information, go to https://www.boma.ngo/.

About Mercy Corps:  Mercy Corps is a leading global organization powered by the belief that a better world is possible. In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, we partner to put bold solutions into action—helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within. Now, and for the future.