A Randomized Evaluation of an Integrated Graduation and Contingent Social Protection Program in Kenya


Pastoralist and agro-pastoralist households in northern Kenya are vulnerable to natural disasters and to changing and increasingly unpredictable weather. Seven droughts struck Kenya between 1992 and 2012. In the worst of these, households lost upwards of half of their productive wealth over the course of a few months. Overall, damages from the droughts that occurred between 2008 and 2012 cost an estimated US $12.4 billion.

Project Overview

Lead PI: Michael Carter, UC Davis

Partners: International Livestock Research Institute, The BOMA Project

Timeline: 2017-2022

Funding: $1,430,340

Region: Northern Kenya

Key Innovation: Paired social development programs with index-based livestock insurance

Commodity: Livestock

The human and economic consequences of shocks of this magnitude are potentially enormous. Raising the stakes further is the accumulating evidence that severe losses in this region may be irreversible. Households can remain impoverished and unable to move forward after a severe drought event that pushes them below a critical minimum threshold of wealth. There can be no doubt that the accumulating costs as families struggle to recover are substantial, including lost accumulation of human capital as they cut their spending on food and their children’s education.

Project Summary

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Assets and Market Access is conducting a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate synergies between social development and social protection programs in Kenya. This project will investigate the impacts, alone and in combination, of The BOMA Project's Poverty Graduation Program and Index-based Livestock Insurance (IBLI).

Two recent pilot programs in Northern Kenya provide building blocks for an integrated social protection policy that can potentially alter poverty dynamics. BOMA’s poverty graduation model, launched in northern Kenya in 2013, is a sequence of gender-focused interventions over two years that includes participant targeting, a conditional cash transfer, financial and life skills training, hands-on mentoring and coaching, the establishment of savings and access to credit. First introduced in 2009, the IBLI index insurance program created a mechanism that triggers payments based on remote sensing indicators of forage scarcity and livestock mortality.

The research team will measure outcomes at the level of individual households as well as in terms of local poverty measures. A second research goal is to understand the density with which graduation programs like BOMA's need to be offered. The third and final goal of this research—contingent on obtaining additional funding—is to explore the relative effectiveness of alternative mechanisms for delivering contingent payments to poor and vulnerable households in the wake of drought.

Anticipated Impacts

This project will provide critical information to the Government of Kenya for designing and implementing a pro-graduation social protection strategy. In addition, this research should be able to answer numerous important and generalizable questions around the design and implementation of integrated, efficient social protection programs to the benefit of policy-makers and development agencies around the world working to design such schemes.

2020 COVID-19 Update

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and Kenya’s response to it have created new challenges for the women taking part in this research. In July, 2020, the research team launched a phone survey to study the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the project’s participants. The survey is collecting information on measures of material and psychological wellbeing as well as questions about how the pandemic has affected their individual businesses as well as their access to broader markets.


This work is conducted as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and is supported by contributors to the CGIAR Trust Fund.