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Is it Possible to “Graduate” from Poverty? New Research Says Yes

Village Enterprise equips people living in extreme poverty in rural Kenya and Uganda to create sustainable businesses.

Village Enterprise equips people living in extreme poverty in rural Kenya and Uganda to create sustainable businesses.

In a world where extreme poverty seems insurmountable, it is refreshing to be part of an alliance of organizations that are effectively making a difference in the lives of people in Africa. Aid for Africa’s member organizations are grassroots, bottom-up endeavors that empower Africans to find a way out of poverty. Now scientific evidence proves that this approach, undertaken in the right way, actually works.

Aid for Africa is pleased to see recognition of two of our members—The Boma Project and Village Enterprise –in a recent article by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof about the power of the “graduation” model to sustainably raise incomes and reduce poverty. Kristof cites a new study published in Science documenting the positive long-term effects of programs that provide

• funding to purchase livestock, farming products or goods to start small shops,
• training on how to keep businesses going,
• mentoring to help sustain skills and deal with challenges,
• access to healthcare or health education and
• financial training and savings accounts.

The Boma Project helps women in northern Kenya graduate from extreme poverty.

The Boma Project helps women in northern Kenya graduate from extreme poverty.

These programs “graduate” entrepreneurs who gain the financial resources, management skills and follow through to be successful. And they are.

Staff at The Boma Project and Village Enterprise knew their approach was having an impact–together the organizations have helped launch more than 30,000 small businesses and lifted more than a half a million individuals out of poverty in East Africa. Now scientific evidence backs them up.

Referring to the study, Kristof said, “Much of the news about global poverty is depressing, but this is fabulous: a large-scale experiment showing, with rigorous evidence, what works to lift people out of the most extreme poverty.”

Ending extreme poverty requires a comprehensive approach, but it is not insurmountable.