The challenge of eliminating extreme poverty in Kenya

  • Client: DFID
  • Location: Kenya

The challenge : How best to ‘graduate’ the extremely poor from poverty, sustainably and at scale?

At the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals is the first one: eliminating extreme poverty by 2030. This ambitious challenge has been adopted by Kenya in its Vision 2030, and as part of its ‘big four’ agenda of tackling food insecurity.

As complex and ambitious as this goal may be, the evidence is encouraging; high-quality, well designed and sequenced support can enable the poorest families to escape the deepest forms of poverty. Studies as far afield as Bangladesh to Senegal are showing how micro-businesses and livelihoods support are improving social and economic wellbeing, enabling access to better food and vital services such as healthcare and education. This is the essence of the graduation from poverty approach.

Yet serious obstacles continue to block the path to scale. In Kenya, as in many countries, graduation packages are being provided by NGOs in select few communities. Few mechanisms exist to scale successful initiatives country-wide or without the involvement of large aid organisations. Coordination mechanisms remain weak, and the lack of shared commitments continue to underpin ad hoc programming.

High-quality, well designed and sequenced support can enable the poorest families to escape the deepest forms of poverty.

Our work : Generating new approaches and shared commitment to scaling up poverty graduation in Kenya

Wasafiri was commissioned in 2018 by DFID to lead a collaborative effort between development partners and government, drawing in USAID, the World Bank, EU and Gates Foundation to work with government ministries, the Council of Governors and Vision 2030 Secretariat. Our work has included:

  • Designing and facilitating a national Graduation Conference which secured collective interest and commitment for scaling up graduation from poverty across Kenya from almost 150 senior government representatives, development partners and implementers. The workshop report is here.
  • Launching an inaugural Working Group on Extreme Poverty designed to facilitate ongoing alignment and coordination between government and development partners.
  • Capturing the perspectives of practitioners and implementers which can be found here
  • Examining the challenges and opportunities facing rural youth migrating to urban areas in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.
  • Conducting research on poverty in Kenya, designed to inform policy makers and implementers at national and county level. These included Defining and Targeting the Ultra Poor in Kenya, and county scoping exercises in West Pokot, Marsabit and Kakamega and development of a tool to inform future engagement at county level.
  • Managed communications and stakeholder engagement including establishing a website to facilitate communication of products developed.

An emerging collective determination to scale up graduation efforts in Kenya

Our work has led to encouraging and important shifts; a shared commitment to poverty graduation at scale has been reached by key donors and government partners; graduation is now central to Kenya’s Social and Economic Inclusion Programme; new investors such as the Open Society Foundation have begun investing specifically in new poverty graduation approaches. It is perhaps too soon to determine whether these constitute tipping points, but the inertia has well and truly been lifted.

Examples of our work

Generation Africa: Grow Entrepreneurs.Transform Food.

New approaches for preventing violent extremism in East Africa

Millions of smallholders reached through private investment

Systemcraft Labs: innovating new approaches for complex problems