MEDA Blog - Stories from the Field

A New Era of Farming: Unlocking Innovations for Smallholders Via Non-Traditional Finance


 

 This post was originally published on Next Billion

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Green Finance: to bravely go where no-one has gone before…


Just like Captain Kirk, we are on a journey of discovery.

Individuals, communities, cities, countries, businesses and organizations are heading into uncharted territory - making brave and unique decisions to combat global environmental challenges.

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SSBVC: Let's Listen to Local Leaders


Sometimes, you don’t have to recreate the wheel.At MEDA, we do our best to partner with already functioning entities and systems. Why start from scratch when you don’t have to?Our Strengthening Small Business Value Chains (SSBVC) project in Tanzania is one such example. Before we began working in Tanzania, we saw the potential of existing lead firms and decided to support and strengthen the business systems that were already in place and demonstrating how they could improve supply chains.SSBVC aims to increase job creation by sustainably improving the business performance of small, growing businesses (SGBs) and small entrepreneurs (SEs). By partnering with growth-oriented SGBs (lead firms), we work to design and implement programs that have micro and macro effects on the economy.Local businesses are our leaders. We have the privilege of working with locally established entrepreneurs who are willing to partner with SEs and connect them to the end market.On Aug. 19 MEDA had the pleasure of welcoming six members of Canada’s parliament to our SSBVC project. Global Affairs Canada (GAC) heard about the success of our project in Tanzania and came to see the results for themselves.During their visit, the MPs met with Jackma, a sunflower oil processor and one of SSBVC’s most socially minded and advanced lead firms. Jackma is considered an advanced lead firm because it has been working successfully for over a year. Its social-mindedness comes from its interest in integrating women and youth into its business strategy.Georges Ndenga, SSBVC’s regional operations manager, was proud to lead the group through the project’s inner workings and facilitate a discussion with Jackma. Georges addressed questions regarding environmentally conscious farming, the integration of women and youth into lead firms, the qualification process and criteria, and how spending is tracked.Canada has long been interested in partnering with the government of Tanzania to help them achieve sustainable economic growth by strengthening the business environment for start-ups and creating greater access to financial services for entrepreneurs.By partnering with successful businesses and positively impacting their communities, we receive relevant, current information on the local business environment to make informed decisions that serve the community.With funding from GAC and the help of local lead firms, we are reaching out to 250 small, growing business and 10,000 small entrepreneurs!Business women and men in Tanzania know what they are doing. They are knowledgeable, intelligent and effective entrepreneurs who can teach us a thing or two.
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From Theory to Practice: interning with MEDA

Working as an intern at MEDA was an exciting opportunity; I eagerly anticipated applying the theory I had learned in class to a professional organization that provides business solutions to poverty as Gender Programming Coordinator.At the University of Waterloo, I learned the theory behind social development through courses in psychology, sociology and social work. These are relevant to MEDA’s work in gender development and equality because they teach students how to empower and advocate for the rights of those who cannot advocate for themselves. I learned to analyze and reflect on various social issues that people are currently experiencing around the world from an interdisciplinary and innovative perspective, just as MEDA does. MEDA is solution-focused, working to provide business solutions to poverty through training, entrepreneurship and investment. MEDA provides agency by partnering with people as they seek to change their circumstances through entrepreneurship. As an intern, I had a front-row seat to the effective work of MEDA. I watched as MEDA staff prioritized individuals and communities. I watched as they implemented projects that benefited everyone – including women and youth. Promoting gender equality through economic development is an important factor when helping individuals and families escape from poverty as it benefits everyone. When women are treated as equals, our world changes. That’s why it is important to include gender equality in all aspects – political, economical and social.A common misconception about gender equality is that it solely benefits women, exclusive of men. But this is not the case! Men are integral actors in the fight for gender inclusivity! International movements like UN Women’s He for She are great examples of how men and people from all gender identities are included in the conversation. Being an intern at MEDA was a great hands-on experience. During my time with MEDA I was able to apply the theory and knowledge that I had learned in the classroom. Practice and hands-on experience are all part of the learning process and MEDA provided a great environment to ask questions, learn and reflect.
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High Commission of Canada Visits GROW

bibeauedit1Ghana has emerged as one of Africa’s economic success stories, with steady economic growth in its agriculture and mining sectors.

Ghana and Canada have had a long and prosperous relationship, with Ghana being one of the first nations in Africa to establish diplomatic ties with Canada. 

On July 8, 2017, MEDA’s Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) project in Ghana was pleased to welcome the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Development and La Francophonie to view GROW and share information on the challenges faced by women and girls in remote northern areas of the country.

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Two women, eight teams trekking for women in Ghana

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Two adventurous women are trekking Ontario’s 900-km Bruce Trail in July in support of women farmers involved in MEDA’s Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) project in Ghana.

GROW focuses on improving food security for families in Northern Ghana by assisting women farmers to grow more soybeans and forge market links that will increase incomes.

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Encouraging Findings from Katesh, Manyara

The small clinic in Katesh, Manyara is full of young mothers bedecked in brightly colored kitenges. While some have small children, all are here to learn more aboutmasava1 Vitamin A fortified oil, a product that improves eyesight and strengthens immunity. At the front of the room, clinic staff emphatically describe Vitamin A's health benefits, occasionally asking the audience questions to ensure the message is being heard. I remember to take the clinic's GPS coordinates. They will be helpful when I conduct a spatial analysis of all the retail shops and BCC activities in the area.

Behold the scene that unfolded before my eyes in Katesh, Manyara, one of MASAVA's two target regions in Tanzania. My visit to Katesh was part of a larger project to measure the effectiveness of behavioral change campaigns ("BCC") on oil sales. Previous research had showed that BCC campaigns were successful in raising greater awareness about the presence of Vitamin A fortified oil in the market. However, raising awareness about a product is one thing. The question that sparked my curiosity was if greater awareness inspired consumers to buy oil. I was in Katesh to interview attendees and find out.My findings were encouraging. Nearly all participants–young, old, man, woman—said they would buy Vitamin A fortified sunflower oil despite the higher cost.

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Night markets, Myanmar style

20170428 193923 low resNight markets originated in Asian cultures, and they’re quickly spreading to cultures far and wide. A night market takes place just after dusk and can go into the wee hours of the morning. Tent vendors, food vendors and musicians gather to block a street and create a unique atmosphere with all the smells, sounds and activities of a normal marketplace.

In Hpa-An, the capital of Kayin State, Myanmar, the night market starts up as the heat of the day begins to dissipate into a welcoming warm evening.

Families gather for their evening meal on the east bank of the Thanlwin (Salween) River, amidst a range of vendors cooking small pancakes, patties, dumplings and other "fast" foods.

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What is ESG and SRI? How are they applied at MEDA?

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ESG investing is when one uses environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria during the portfolio construction and/or analysis processes. ESG investing came out of the field of socially responsible investing (SRI).

Arguably, SRI can be used as an umbrella term for many buzz terms: ESG investing, impact investing, ethical investing, values based investing, green investing, among others. The important similarity is they approach investing through some form of environmental, social, or corporate governance perspective.

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Tool kit to help Myanmar farmers adapt to climate change

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Farmers in Myanmar, as in many other countries, are starting to recognize the need to address climate change to safeguard their livelihoods. They are vulnerable in terms of the potential for increased food insecurity, flooding, drought, and rain patterns variations that are causing climate-driven migration.

In Myanmar, the agriculture sector contributes 33% of GDP. The livelihoods of rural communities and the productivity of the agricultural sector as a whole are largely influenced by climate conditions in these areas: The agricultural sector is impacted by late or early onset of monsoon season, longer dry spells, erratic rainfall, increasing temperature, heavy rains, stronger typhoons and flooding – all occurring with greater frequency.

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UHBDP awards first environmental innovation grants

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Background: Ukraine’s agriculture sectorThird-largest economic sectorProvides 20% of country’s employmentSmall and medium farms produce majority of fruits and vegetables, yet remain disconnected from markets and isolated from supply chainsBackground: UHBDP

MEDA’s seven-year Ukraine Horticulture Business Development Project, which started in 2014, is providing the tools, training and opportunity people need to grow their businesses. Farmers can create a sustainable small-scale operation through access to finance to invest in their operation, and training on better agricultural practices from local agricultural training institutes.

Environmental Innovation Competitive Matching Grants

Now, competitive matching grants for environmental innovation will support innovative environmental solutions that demonstrate value to horticulture farm production​. While the awards are targeted at registered commercial farmers, and small-medium enterprises serving horticulture industry in the region, they will also and help the project team determine future action on environmental issues.

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Centre has big potential to develop clean sources of energy

In March 2017, team members from MEDA’s EMERTA (Ethiopians Motivating Enterprises to Rise in Trade and Agri-business) project visited Bahir Dar Energy Centre at Bahir Dar Polytechnic University in Ethiopia. The two-year old centre is equipped with technology for teaching graduate students about solar, wind, and biomass energy production.

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Agribusiness in Haiti: Challenges and Opportunities

The physical terrain of Central Haiti is quite similar to the agribusiness landscape: difficult to navigate, very few clear routes and lots of obstacles to overcome. The CLM+ team, myself included, really hoped that drip irrigation systems could help our female pepper producers significantly boost production. While we have yet to complete our empirical evaluation of the systems – this will have to wait until after this season’s harvest –limited access to water remains a major challenge to our members. Imagine walking for an hour in the hot sun on steep, narrow and rocky footpaths to a small creak, filling a five gallon bucket, and then retracing your long and hot journey with the full bucket (about 45 pounds or 20 kilos) on your head. Then repeat this process 11 more times...barefoot. It’s no wonder then that when visiting fields with our staff agronomist, we often find the irrigation drums empty.

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And the Winner of MEDA's International Women's Day Poster Competition is...

To mark International Women’s Day 2017, MEDA hosted a poster competition between its international projects to highlight the gender equality and women's economic empowerment work MEDA does around the world. In total, there were 11 posters submitted from MEDA's various projects, and each one of them highlighted how the project is working towards gender equality by showcasing a partner, lead firm or woman who is being bold for change in their community.

Mo Bi is one of our female-lead farmers on MEDA’s Improving Market Opportunities for Women (IMOW) project in Myanmar. This means that Mobi is a model farmer who serves as a leader to a group of women farmers and demonstrates good agricultural and business practices to her community. Along with other lead farmers, Mo Bi receives technical training, leadership and mentorship training, and are linked to savings to improve their financial literacy. MEDA works with key facilitating partners, like METTA in Shan state of Myanmar, and provides technical support and gender sensitization trainings for staff and key market actors. These key market actors include: agricultural extension workers, input suppliers and commodity collectors, who are all members of the IMOW community, but may not have engaged with women before working with MEDA on IMOW.

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World Water Day: Opportunities to Innovate and Address Time Poverty for Women




World Water Day, on 22 March every year, is about taking action to tackle the water crisis.

One of my first experiences with global inequality was related to water. In a remote part of the Maasai Mara in Kenya, I met mothers and daughters who were obligated to make an arduous and long walk to the river, daily, to collect dirty water and carry it alone back to the homestead to prepare meals, bathe, clean, wash laundry, garden and nourish livestock. This story is not an anomaly. The world over, rural women and girls often bear the burden of collecting water for their families. Globally, it is estimated that women and girls collectively spend 200 million hours every day, or individually 6 hours a day, fetching water. In terms of distance, in Africa and Asia, it is estimated that girls and children walk an average 3.7 miles a day to fetch water.1  As a result, women and girls are at a higher risk of violence and health hazards due to isolation along rural routes, issues related to menstruation and women’s hygiene, along with heightened exposure to diseases found in unclean water.2

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Back to Ethiopia

I always look forward to going to Ethiopia. Since MEDA started its first program there in 2010, geared to empowering smallholder rice farmers and rural textile weavers and helping them access to better markets, Ethiopia has been my favorite destination.

The most powerful attraction is MEDA’s Ethiopia team – their hospitality, dedication to the development of their country, intelligence, and the humility with which they approach their work that reminds me of our Mennonite members in Waterloo. It is precisely the support they provide me for all my assignments in Ethiopia and the diligence with which they follow up that strengthens my belief that great results are possible only with great teams.
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The Strengthening Small Business Value Chains (SSBVC) project has officially launched!

Although it has been two years since the project began operations Tanzania, on February 2nd MEDA organized and hosted the official launch event for the KUZA-BIASHARA-SAWIA project which was attended by dignitaries from both the Tanzanian and Canadian governments, private organizations, other NGOs, and a number of businesses currently involved in the SSBVC project.

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Promoting Local and Sustainable Tourism at MiCrédito

Did you know that 2017 is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development? According to the World Tourism Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, tourism has the highest impact on poverty reduction when the poor benefits directly through employment in tourism enterprises or through establishing their own tourism-related businesses.

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An Easy Sell? Women's Economic Empowerment in Ghana

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Empowering women in rural, northern Ghana—where nearly 80% of women have never attended school, is no small feat. With some smart marketing and production support for farmers, agribusinesses are now buying the idea.

Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) is a six-year project funded by both the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) and Global Affairs Canada (GAC). The main goal of the project is to improve food security for families in the Upper West Region of Ghana by assisting women farmers to increase productivity, link to sustainable markets, and improve nutrition practices.

The implementation of the GROW project started in 2013 with a goal of reaching 20,000 women farmers using a value chain approach. Through a mixed methods data gathering approach including interviews and surveys, MEDA recently developed and published a case study that examines the role of market actors and their profitability as they have engaged with the GROW project and female farmers. This blog shares some of the results.

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What does International Women’s Day mean to me?

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To mark International Women’s Day 2017, MEDA is highlighting important issues and voices around women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in the area of economic development. This is the third in our “Be Bold for Change” blog series celebrating the power of women entrepreneurs and their partners around the world.

Catherine Sobrevega (center) in Afghanistan, with her previous MEDA’s project, Through the Garden Gate, in Afghanistan.

I always look forward to International Women’s Day (IWD) as it is celebrated differently in form and structure worldwide. In the Philippines, where I am from, I cannot remember any celebration that I have been part of. I am sure there is an IWD celebration somewhere, but it is mostly celebrated by women’s right activist groups — not by ordinary people or companies. This is likely because men and women treat one another equally. I grew up knowing that there is no difference between us – all of us can go to school, all of us have access to information and opportunities.

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