12 February 2013

Kenya: Boma Project of Northern Kenya Helps Rural Women Start and Maintain Small Businesses

The BOMA Project, a US-based non-governmental organization that helps poor women start small, sustainable businesses in their rural villages in Northern Kenya, is marking an important milestone as its signature program enters its fifth year of improving lives for generations to come in sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2008, BOMA initiated the Rural Entrepreneur Access Project (REAP), which has since lifted 23,000 women and children out of extreme poverty.

REAP is an innovative poverty-graduation program that offers business-skills training, a start-up grant and two years of mentoring to small business groups of three women.

In 2011, BOMA added a micro-savings component that teaches participants the importance of savings, facilitates access to secure savings instruments (such as three-lock boxes and mobile banking, where available), and helps REAP business groups to establish mentored savings and loans associations.

"Families in this region have lived for centuries by tending livestock," said BOMA founder, Kathleen Colson. "But in recent years, climate change-severe and prolonged drought-has devastated that way of life.

This leaves two options: begging for credit or surviving on humanitarian food aid. Food aid saves lives, but it's a short-term solution. We're teaching women in Northern Kenya how to replace aid with sustainable income."

The numbers, as REAP enters its fifth year, are impressive: BOMA has launched 1,145 income-generating businesses in 20 settled villages and more than 250 nomadic villages across Northern Kenya. These business groups comprise 3,963 adults, who use the income and savings to support more than 19,800 children.

This total includes 177 savings groups, each made up of between three to eight REAP business groups. Guided by an established constitution and lending guidelines, the savings groups offer interest-bearing loans to REAP participants and trusted community members, often serving as the first-and only-source of cash and credit in these remote villages.

"I am proud of how far we have come and how hard the BOMA team and our participants have worked to get us here," said Colson. "The REAP program is replicable, scalable and a proven long-term solution to the unique challenges of the entire Horn of Africa.

We want to change the perception of this region as a constant disaster zone of drought and famine, so our goal is to take 100,000 women and children through our poverty-graduation program over the next five years. REAP's success so far shows that this goal, while ambitious, is not out of our reach."

About The BOMA Project

The BOMA Project is a U.S-based. nonprofit and registered Kenyan NGO with a proven track record, measurable results and a transformative approach to alleviating poverty, empowering women and building resiliency in the arid lands of rural Africa.

For more information on The BOMA Project, go to www.bomaproject.org or call 802.231.2542.

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