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The BOMA Project: Helping women and children in the arid lands of eastern Africa overcome extreme poverty

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Economic Development, Microfinance, Rural Economic Development

Mission: The BOMA Project implements a unique poverty graduation program that helps ultra-poor women in Northern Kenya overcome extreme poverty. We help provide women with business, financial and life-skills training so they can earn a sustainable income, survive drought, pay for food and medical care, send their children to school, and accumulate savings for long-term family stability.

Results: Since 2009, BOMA has impacted more than 116,892 women and children, and launched 6,030 businesses and 1,030 savings groups. Our goal is to lift 1 million women and children out of extreme poverty by 2022.

Target demographics: Women and families living in extreme poverty in Northern Kenya. When we begin working with them, 99 percent of BOMA entrepreneurs live on less than $2.50 per day (the poverty line), while 88 percent live on less than $1.90 per day (the extreme poverty line).

Direct beneficiaries per year: In 2017 we enrolled 4,555 women, supporting 22,775 children— nearly twice as many as in 2016.

Geographic areas served: Laisamis, Loiyangalani, Marsabit and Samburu Districts of Northern Kenya.

Programs: Our cornerstone program, the Rural Entrepreneur Access Project (REAP), provides a seed capital grant, business skills and savings training, and two years of hands-on mentoring by local BOMA Village Mentors to business groups of three women. Once businesses are established and earning profits, we help them to assemble committed savings associations for business expansion and individual interest-bearing loans.

Community Stories

57 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

The BOMA Project is doing amazing, vitally important work in Africa, empowering women not with mere words but with funds and training that enable impoverished women to become self-sufficient. I have some experience in Africa and I have seen the need; many of my friends in the non-profit world have lived and worked in Africa, struggling to help rural Africans rise out of dire poverty. The BOMA Project may be the most sensible and effective of these efforts. Where some micro-financing programs require that the micro-loans be paid back, with interest, the BOMA Project gives women an outright grant, then trains the women in basic business and finance and gives another grant to get the business off the ground. What's unique about the BOMA Project approach, in my experience, is that once trained and financed, the women form groups of three, each with equal say in how the funds are used, each with equal access to the common fund, and each with an equal share of the profits. This system also safeguards the women's funds from their family members; it's like having three persons holding keys to the safe deposit box and all three keys are required to open it. And unlike some NGOs I have known, the BOMA Project is not top-heavy with administrative superstructure; the funds raised are used well and wisely, in the field. I believe in their mission, and I believe they are carrying out their mission professionally and with great compassion.

kcjames

Advisor

Rating: 5

I first joined BOMA as a part-time grantwriter in 2009 and stayed with the organization, in various communications roles, until 2017. I was honored — and often amazed — to watch the organization grow from a small nonprofit that served a few hundred women, with a small group of donors, to the remarkable multi-national poverty graduation powerhouse that it has become. BOMA uses very simple tools to lift ultra-poor women and families out of extreme poverty in one of the most challenging, remote regions of the planet. The simple tools? A small grant, hands-on training and support from professional mentors, and HOPE. The program is powered by an unswerving commitment to rigorous data collection to constantly monitor outcomes and make adjustments when needed. It's also powered by passionate people. BOMA is changing lives every day in rural Africa, and every donor dollar invested in BOMA has exponential impacts in villages across Northern Kenya and beyond.

Previous Stories

Advisor

Rating: 5

I've been a freelance grant and communications writer for BOMA since 2010. It has been remarkable to watch BOMA's poverty graduation program evolve. At every level, BOMA's staff and leadership are committed to delivering a high-quality program that transforms the life of every participant -- lifting them and their families out of extreme poverty and giving them the tools they need to build a brighter future. In one of the most remote, rural regions on the planet, BOMA is notable for its use of data and technology to analyze outcomes, improve the program and drive innovation. Mentors visit each business and savings group monthly -- often walking many kilometers or riding motorbikes across the scrubland to reach women who are operating successful BOMA-funded kiosks in far-flung settlements. Using tablets with a BOMA -developed application called Performance Insights, they gather extensive data on how each participant, business and savings group is faring --then upload this information in real-time to our cloud-based Salesforce database, where it's read and analyzed by our monitoring and evaluation team. This allows a rapid and targeted response for groups that need support -- and provides the data we need to continually refine the program. While this all sounds wonky, it's this devotion to the nuts-and-bolts that makes BOMA remarkable ... and the stories and gratitude that we constantly hear in the field, from women whose lives have been forever changed by BOMA, are the proof.

Donor

Rating: 5

Having spend time in rural Africa, I am aware of the challenges and obstacles that confront women and girls in their daily life. What BOMA does is to create not a system of handouts, but one of accountability, responsibility and tangible progress. They create real results and that is accomplished through BOMA's incredible passion for the area and the people and the staff's sheer tenacity in the face of constant adversity.

Donor

Rating: 5

I remeber the evening the founder of Boma, Kathleen Colson told me about her idea to help women in North Africa. This was a call to action. She saw a need and thought of a way to make their lives better for them - not a band-aide but a better life and future.
That was the summer of 1999.
I am still in awe of all Boma has become. The focus the intent the drive to make lives better has never changed never wavered.
This is an organization I am proud to support because I trust the people who work at Boma and I know where every penny goes. The stories of women living better safer lives, the statistics presented - everything they do is clear and concise. This model is brilliant. This organization does it right !

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My husband and I have known Kathleen Colson, the founder of the BOMA Project, since the early 1990’s when our children went to school together here in Vermont. In 2001 we travelled with her to Kenya to photograph the Maasai people for Getty Images. Since then Kathleen has developed and expanded the BOMA Project making a reality of her dream.
Kathleen has been an inspiration to my husband and I, and we have supported BOMA from its home base here in Manchester, VT. This spring we had the opportunity to visit Maralal in Samburu County, in northern Kenya. It was deeply moving to see first-hand the profound positive transformations this project made in the lives of these women and their families. We have been believers in The BOMA Project for years, but meeting these proud BOMA business owners really brought the power of this program home to us.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I interned with BOMA last winter and thoroughly enjoyed my nonprofit experience there. The staff is so passionate about the work they do, and their collaboration is key to making a positive impact. BOMA's mission (to help end extreme poverty in Africa through a poverty graduation program) and process sets it apart from other nonprofits in a similar field. My experience with BOMA was very fulfilling and makes me want to work for more nonprofits in the future.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

BOMA is focused on helping the highest impact population on the planet. Women in rural Africa need opportunities to learn and support themselves and their children. BOMA's graduation model is the right information delivered to the right people over an extended period of time so it actually sinks in. More please!

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

There is nothing we can do that is better for the world than to empower a woman. Education, health care, climate change, poverty...you name it and the solution starts with a woman. So proud to be part of BOMA, helping women and children in some of the toughest regions of Africa to improve their resiliency. And we have the numbers to prove it. 100,000 down, 900,000 to go, to hit our target of lifting 1 million women and children from extreme poverty.

1 SuzanneSkees

Donor

Rating: 5

We at Skees Family Foundation have known The BOMA Project since they dared to launch a job-creation program for some of the poorest women in the world, in a drought-stricken land, so far from resources that no one believed they could do it. Unstoppable Kathleen Colson and her relentless team support women entrepreneurs in a community-based model, providing training and capital and staying with them for two years until their businesses--and families--can stand on their own. BOMA proves that every life matters, even those who live far from our homes and screens. They've reached 100,000 and now aim for 1 million by 2022. This is true compassion in action!

1

Donor

Rating: 5

I saw first hand the work of BOMA in 2010 when I traveled to Kenya and again in 2013.
After seeing the work they are doing and meeting the women and villagers where BOMA works and following the scope of their work, I highly recommend them.
They are working with those who are forgotten, bringing education, training and hope to villages where many of the men have to leave for long periods of time to find food for their livestock, leaving the women behind to find a way to support their families and educate their children in their absence. Small groups of women are given training and a small amount of money to jump start small businesses to help support their families and save money for emergencies.
The women are given the education and mentoring to be successful in their endeavors.
Those that work with them are Kenyans like them from the same tribes....rather than someone from "outside" telling them what and how to do it.
This is a recipe for success and it has been!
Our family Foundation has funded their work since 2010 and are proud to support BOMA's work.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the pleasure of working with The BOMA Project throughout the Summer of 2017. As a St. Lawrence University Student, I traveled to Kenya previously and witness firsthand the work other nonprofit organizations are doing in East Africa. The BOMA Project stands out from these organizations because of their prioritization of a culturally relevant and locally-led poverty graduation model. Their gender-based approach to poverty graduation acknowledges the ability women have within these communities to reinvest in their families and catalyze change. In addition, their approach is rooted in knowledge of the area and the people with whom they work. Overall, The BOMA Project is a transparent organization that produces real, effective results, and I feel confident in BOMA's ability to continue positively impacting the lives of women and children in Northern Kenya.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered with this organization over the Summer of 2017 in their U.S. based office in Manchester, Vermont and found that this nonprofit far exceeded my expectations. I came to the BOMA Project to see the inner workings of an international nonprofit and found dedicated and hardworking professionals, an acceptance and kindness to a student just trying and learn, and an honest openness to my opinion on social media projects and research for actual use in the field, as well as other projects. I know that I made a great decision in volunteering with BOMA for my summer and I would recommend the same position to any college age student looking to make a bit of difference in the world. Being on the U.S. side of things I was able to see the compassion and dedication from every staff member. Every move they make, they have their participants in mind. They are truly working toward building a better future for women in Kenya and spreading this wealth to as many places as possible. Women in extreme poverty in areas most affected by climate change are some of the most vulnerable people in the world. By giving them the tools they need to create a sustainable livelihood, BOMA is having lasting impact on these women, years after they have left the region. Girls are being sent to school, mothers are business owners, and no one goes to bed hungry - these are real and lasting results and these outcomes are motivation to every staff member in the U.S. office.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was so lucky to get the opportunity to volunteer for the BOMA Project in Kenya this past summer, and I cannot say enough wonderful things about the work this organization does. In traveling to the field and meeting participants of BOMA's poverty graduation program, it is so clear how instrumental the work that BOMA does is and how greatly appreciated BOMA and its employees are in the communities wherein they work. I was especially impressed by how well BOMA is able to respect and work within the pastoralist cultural tradition to bring social and economic change to empower women. BOMA employs mentors and field officers from within the communities in which the organization works and joins women into business and savings groups. Through this strategic model, the relationship that the organization builds with (and among) its beneficiaries is truly unique and sets BOMA apart from any other nonprofit in the economic development and women's empowerment space.

Donor

Rating: 5

Out of Segal Family Foundation's portfolio of over 200 grantee partners, The BOMA Project is unique for the population they target; infrastructure and employment opportunities are lacking in the African drylands. BOMA has great leadership, a cost-effective model, and has demonstrated impressive scale in a short period of time. We appreciate their strong partnerships and collaborations with stakeholders, local leaders, and government. BOMA also benefits from strong M&E systems and depth of data, which is fantastic.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

BOMA is one of Smarter Good’s long term clients and we've had the privilege to witness how they have been able to help increasing numbers of women and children in the ASALs of Africa. Because of their emphasis on rigorously tracking impact, making data driven decisions, creating long-term change, and designing a program uniquely tailored to the context of women of the African drylands, I consider BOMA one of the most promising leaders in the poverty graduation space and a role model for other organizations in the sector. I recently had the chance to work with BOMA’s board members and senior management team to develop their next strategic plan. I was amazed and inspired by the commitment that each person brought to the table. BOMA has a highly experienced, talented and dedicated board and staff and that gives me the confidence that BOMA will achieve its ambitious goal of changing the lives of 1 million women and children by end of 2022. I would really recommend BOMA as a vision-first organization that will continue to grow and succeed in the coming years.

Donor

Rating: 5

The poverty graduation success rate of this organization is unmatched in my experience. This is particularly noteworthy given that they purposely target the most difficult and dire environments and situations. Further, staffing locally and sourcing mentors from past graduates provides credibility and builds self-reliance versus dependence. Finally, it's use of technology as a staff multiplier and to fuel data driven analysis and decision-making really sets this relatively small non-profit apart from the pack. This is a model that has legs...and it has heart. I am proud to be a donor/supporter of this exceptional work.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I serve on Boma’s board because I know that Boma’s innovative approach to alleviating extreme poverty, building economic resilience and empowering women works. I first traveled to Kenya as a young teenager in 1972 and vowed to return. When I joined Boma’s board in 2007, I had not been able to return to Kenya, but through Boma, I knew I was helping to transform the lives of women and their families in the remote arid lands of Africa. At last, in 2015, 43 years later, I traveled to northern Kenya and was able to witness the power of Boma’s work firsthand. Through Boma’s proven, data-driven poverty graduation model, these previously marginalized women are forming successful businesses, building economic safety nets and better providing for their families. Boma’s remarkable work truly does provide the path toward Prosperity with Dignity.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I joined the Board of BOMA a little over two years ago, soon after meeting founder Kathleen Colson. BOMA is a remarkable organization working at the cutting edge of eliminating extreme poverty in the drylands of Africa.

This is not one time humanitarian aid. BOMA begins by identifying the very poorest women in a village based on interviews with village residents. About 90% of these women have no savings and about 2/3 have sent their children to bed hungry in the last week. BOMA gives these women small cash grants to start small businesses and then follows up with two years of hands-on mentoring.

After 2 years, 93% of these women have graduated out of extreme poverty based on a rigorous set of criteria, including the fact that 93% of these graduates report that no child in their household has gone to bed hungry in the past month.

As further evidence of the efficacy of this approach, BOMA was one of four nonprofits worldwide to pass the rigorous “impact audit” conducted in 2015 by ImpactMatters, an organization led by Yale Economist Dean Karlan.

These remarkable results deserve support from anyone who believes in the ability of women to change their lives for the better when given even the smallest of opportunities.

Katherine Roome, BOMA Board Member

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been to Kenya twice to see BOMA at work and have supported their work for several years as has our family Foundation. BOMA gets to the heart of what it means to lift people out of poverty---they work with women who are marginalized by giving them training in starting their own businesses, give them initial funding and then stay involved with them to assure the businesses are successful. Then they help them save from their profits so they have a measure of financial security.
They don't just give a bit and then leave---they stay involved and the women's businesses flourish.

1 Nancy.Stroupe.Kannappan

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I had the good fortune of working for BOMA in their Kenya location and am now on their Board. I can tell you firsthand, they value and promote everything I would want to see in a non for profit organization: participant empowerment, data driven results, and validated/sustainable impact. I'm extremely proud to be a part of BOMA.