MEDA Blog - Stories from the Field

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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Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is power. This is the phrase that comes to mind when I think about Women Empowering Women with MEDA (WEW). Through the WEW network, North American women are gaining knowledge of different cultures and issues that affect women in the developing world. This knowledge empowers them to contribute to the advancement of women globally by supporting MEDA projects. In turn, through MEDA projects, women clients are gaining knowledge of sustainable agriculture practices, market information, business skills and new technology. With this knowledge, they are able to improve their livelihoods and help create more inclusive, social, economic and environmental systems that provide their families and communities with a viable future.

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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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A personal case of gender reframing

“Essentially all of the income gains that middle-class American families have experienced since 1970 are due to the rise in women’s earnings.”

-Economic Report of the President (US), 20151

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I always took pride in my work for human development. The fact that my vocation and passion makes tangible lasting impact on the lives of the vulnerable poor, steered my growth and does so even today. Ten years ago, I was having a cup of tea one foggy winter morning in Dhaka, contemplating how SMEs are the driving force for the economic growth of a country such as Bangladesh. It dawned on me then that much of that growth has left vulnerable marginalized groups including youth and women behind. There is still so much left to do – and with this thought I finished my breakfast, which includes a pair of samosas made lovingly by my mother – a housewife in an upper middle class family of four.

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New Year, New Spaces and New Growth

Last week Women Empowering Women with MEDA (WEW) groups in Lancaster and the Delaware Valley met for our first meeting of 2017. Several things have changed over the past year including the addition of a new WEW group meeting in Waterloo, ON and new event spaces in both Pennsylvania locations. In our first year, the WEW network raised a total of $33,000 to support women entrepreneurs around the world including women farmers and their families in Ghana and Ukraine. We heard the stories of MEDA clients and learned how MEDA’s work has helped them reach their full potential by overcoming barriers that stand in the way of business success and sustainable livelihoods. We also learned why the unique contributions of women are key to the creation of just, peaceful and prosperous communities and economies.

The women involved in MEDA's Libya Women Economic Empowerment (LWEE) project are perfect examples of this.

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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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Differences that make a difference: how companies manage grants differently from NGOs

The international development community is accustomed to project implementation taking place in-field by local Non-Governmental Organizations. As such, there are certain norms and expectations which have developed over the decades. With increased investment in blended finance models and grant-based incentives being awarded to private-sector entities, it is important to understand some of the major differences between how commercial entities manage ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) grants as compared to traditional NGO implementation. In our work through INFRONT and other experiences of the Investment Technical Team, we have seen that there are 3 major areas where commercial entities differ from NGOs in this respect.PAVE FGD

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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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"Poquito a Poco: Little by Little" – how blended finance facilitates change for low-income and rural households

As MEDA's flagship blended finance program, INFRONT (Impact Investing in Frontier Markets), is in its final year of implementation, the team is focusing its efforts on dissemination and learning. We recently launched two exciting media and communications products to showcase how the project is having an impact in frontier and emerging markets through a combination of investment and technical assistance. This blog will focus on a short film that was created, that features a portfolio company based on Colombia, Rayco and describe the following aspects of the film initiative: process, partner, and promotion.

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Last summer the INFRONT team started working with Twice Upon A Time to produce two short documentary films featuring Rayco and Maureauto Colombia, two companies based in Colombia that received a Sustainability Innovation Grant through the INFRONT project. The goal of these two films is to create awareness, generate empathy and present the business case of sustainability and environment, social, and governance (ESG) practices.

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Partners in Life and Success

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 sixth in our “Be Bold for Change” blog series celebrating the power of women entrepreneurs and their partners around the world.

The Jordan Valley Links project, implemented by MEDA, supports 25,000 women and youth in the Jordan Valley to seize new opportunities in targeted sectors and to become economic actors. The goal of the project is to increase the contribution by women and youth to Jordan’s economic growth. The project focuses on three sectors: clean technology, food processing and community-based tourism. Over five years (2016-2021), MEDA will improve women and youth’s entrepreneurial and business acumen through capacity building and market linkages; and working with communities, families, and market actors to reduce entry for enterprise development for women and youth. One of the activities of the project is to highlight roles models within the areas that we operate and here is one of those stories of gender parity.
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Celebrating the resilience of Libyan women

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 fifth in our “Be Bold for Change” blog series celebrating the power of women entrepreneurs and their partners around the world.

Since the Libyan revolution and ensuing conflict erupted in 2011, damage, theft, and alleged sabotage has plagued the infrastructure in Libya resulting in power outages and basic challenges for a stable life.

Electricity is essential for a stable life. We have grown accustomed and formed adaptive solutions for the increasing number of rolling brownouts over the last three years, with outages ranging from two hours up to twenty hours at a time. In January 2017, twenty hours without electricity became the daily norm for some of us and keeping warm became an exercise of the absurd - if it were not tragic - as we were dressed for the “north pole” in our homes, but we were not able to keep food and medicine cold. Libya is also dependent on electric pumps for water, which adds to the challenges of daily life. Water travels from thousands of kilometers away in the south through the Great Man Made River pipelines, and without electricity, there is no way for the water to reach the tanks in our homes. Adding to these woes is a shortage of cash, which has prevented ordinary citizens from accessing their money in banks, plus a skyrocketing foreign exchange market and an inflation index of over 29% that has made accessing alternative means of electricity, water, and fuel nearly impossible.

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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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