Helping Women Forge Their Own Paths Out of Extreme Poverty in Kenya
In traditionally patriarchal societies like those in Northern Kenya, women continue to face entrenched gender biases and inequalities that limit their ability to engage in economic activities. Historically, men in this region have supported their families through livestock-related businesses, the main economic activity in this pastoralist region, and one in which women could not typically engage.
Rukia Liban, 33, and her eight children live together in a semi-permanent house at the trading center in Malkadaka, located in Garbatula Ward in Isiolo County. To earn extra income for her family, Rukia had been selling cigarettes and prepaid phone cards, or “airtime,” from her home. It was a struggle to make sure that her kids had enough to eat and to make ends meet for the household.
However, now Rukia is enrolled in the BOMA Project’s Rural Entrepreneur Access Project (REAP), a poverty graduation model, which is part of the Feed the Future Kenya Livestock Market Systems Activity implemented by ACDI/VOCA and partners the BOMA Project, Mercy Corps, and Smart Regional Consultants. The REAP model helps ultra-poor women like Rukia gain financial, business, and life skills and provides them with assets to start an income-generating activity. It also supports them with two years of ongoing training and mentorship.
The BOMA Project identifies women like Rukia through a rigorous process that involves mapping out the targeted locations and introducing REAP to community members to gain their buy-in and support. After community entry comes participant targeting, a two-step process for identification and selection of program participants.
The first part is a participatory rural appraisal, which involves all community members, including women, men, youth, people with disabilities and their leaders. They map all the households, develop the social map, and undertake wealth ranking to categorize the households, with rank one considered the poorest. Participants in ranks one and two then proceed to the second part involving a structured participant targeting tool. This tool is administered to each of the nominated households; participants scoring 50 percent and below qualify for enrollment. A randomization is then conducted on the qualified pool to select the anchor women who will then identify two other women with whom to form a business group.
Once these groups have formed and have determined the type of business they want to start, the Feed the Future Kenya Livestock Market Systems Activity awards them asset transfers of KES 20,000. Each group member also receives a mobile handset to help them conduct their business efficiently as well as make transactions and save money. They receive a record book to track sales from their new businesses.
Rukia was identified during both processes, and she and two other women have now formed a livestock business. Her group, Miofto, will travel to Malkadaka, the nearest market, to buy goats ranging in cost from KES 3,500 (USD 35) to KES 5,000 (USD 50). They will then fatten the goats for a few weeks before transporting them to Maua, a vibrant market, where they will sell each goat for KES 7,000 (USD 70). They expect to earn profits of KES 2,000 (USD 20) to KES 3,500 (USD 35) per goat, which they will then divide. The group will use those funds for their families and reinvest the principal amount into their business when the time comes to buy more goats.
Rukia and all REAP participants also join savings groups after six months. The savings groups have monthly commitments to ensure that members are contributing so they can build capital and save for unexpected expenses. The groups can also loan money, at interest, to members or people in the community, earning further income.
“I have stopped selling cigarettes and airtime, and I am very eager to start a livestock business together with the two other women in my group. From the business skills training received, we will ensure that we are competitive in our pricing. This will attract more customers, who in turn mean more profit for the business.” — Rukia Liban, 33, a mother of eight children and co-owner of a livestock business
Armed with the necessary business skills and experience from her part-time business, Rukia is confident that their operation will be successful. The group plans to reinvest in the business once profits start to trickle in. The Feed the Future Kenya Livestock Market Systems Activity will continuously support their business throughout the two years. The larger goal of the program is to engage 5,460 women in the five targeted counties to empower them to escape extreme poverty and build their resilience to shocks.