MEDA Blog - Stories from the Field

Finding Hope in the Spice of Life

CLM+: Haiti
Chemen Lavi Miyò (Pathway to A better life)

For most Haitian women, the marketplace is a familiar environment for buying and selling goods. However, for women living in extreme poverty, some basic livelihood factors must be addressed before they have the confidence and ability to engage in the economy successfully.

Haiti’s inequality is not a simple distinction between the rich and the poor, but a large and growing gap between the lives people lead in urban areas and those of its rural population, where 70% of rural households are considered chronically poor.
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Unlocking possibilities for dry season agriculture

Implementing Keyhole Gardens to Improve Food Security for Women in Ghana

When the tropical storms subside and the dust begins to gather, farmers in Ghana become concerned about how to sustain their gardens. With water scarce during the dry season, water retention becomes a challenge. MEDA targeted its keyhole garden project towards women because women produce 70% of Ghana’s food crops. As a result, they have a direct connection with expanding crop cultivation and providing their families with sufficient nutritional needs. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project’s goal was to extend the growing season for female farmers.

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Announcing: 10 Young Women Changing the World

Over the last two years MEDA’s 20 under 35: Young Professionals Changing the World Initiative has recognized 40 young professionals under the age of 35 for their demonstrated commitment to faith, service and an entrepreneurial spirit. We've had the opportunity to honor people like Chris Steingart, a web designer from Kitchener, ON, who finds his foundation for business in Mennonite faith values. Economist Kaylie Tiessen was recognized in 2015 for her dedication to improving lives through economic justice and growth.

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Meet the women growing soybeans and progress in northern Ghana

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Agro-entrepreneurs. An intriguing word for those like myself entering the business world and being enthralled by realities of nonstop work-education. So far today, I have been talking to 12 agro-entrepreneurs on the four-hour bus ride through stark Sahel countryside in northern Ghana, and I have come upon a meaning for this word. For these women, today, and everyday, it means: leader remade. Meet the GROW women: 12 Lead-Farmers who represent over 20,000 women agro-entrepreneurs who have chosen to remake their gruelling hours tilling the fields to work to their benefit - and in the process, revolutionize the idea of the women business leader.

I feel bonded to these remarkable business leaders through our collaborations on the GROW project. The acronym stands for Greater Rural Opportunities for Women and today we ride to the city of Tamale for the 2016 Annual Pre-Season Conference: a semi-annual business expo for agro-entrepreneurs, equipment suppliers, soybean processors, and financial backers. As we pass anthills the height of single-storey buildings, my thoughts keep returning to how best to do something I have not yet attempted and which just so happens to be my prime task of the day: marketing for agro-entrepreneurs.

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Designing better project takeaway from session with MEDA, CARE Canada and Plan Canada

Large cohort of youth worldwide need opportunities to thrive

International development workers met in Toronto April 26 to hear what leading agencies are learning from recent program evaluations of their work.

The event highlighted the findings of an impact evaluation of MEDA’s YouthInvest project, managed by Jennifer Denomy and Nicki Post of MEDA, as well as presentations on other successful youth economic empowerment projects by Plan Canada and CARE Canada.

From 2008 to 2014, YouthInvest reached over 63,000 youth in Morocco and Egypt with savings, loans and soft skills training. With the support of The MasterCard Foundation, MEDA worked with banks, microfinance institutions and training institutions to develop youth-friendly products and build capacity of their staff to support youth clients. MEDA presenter Elena Mizrokhi, who worked as our Monitoring and Evaluation Manager in Morocco, noted the number one lesson from the assessment was the proven impact of training on youth keeping bank accounts open and continuing to save.
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What can we learn from Project Evaluations? MEDA Shares Results of Impact Evaluation

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From 2008 to 2014, MEDA implemented the YouthInvest project in Morocco and Egypt.  During that time, we reached over 63,000 youth with financial and non-financial services, and built the capacity of our partner staff to provide skills training and financial products to youth.

But this is not the whole story.

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Announcing findings from YouthInvest

There are approximately 1.3 billion young people in the world between the ages of 15 and 24, and one in five live in Africa. This is the largest cohort of youth the world has ever seen. To be a force for positive change, these young people need opportunities that will help them thrive - access to training, education, jobs and financial services. And yet, youth are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. They also are 33% less likely to have a bank account, and 40% less likely to have saved formally than adults. MEDA is supporting young people around the world with increased access to sustainable economic opportunities.
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All the joy, none of the hassle: Monthly Giving.

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When you think about supporting your favorite charitable organization, you probably think about how much you want to give. Should you give $100? $200? You might give your gift online, give cash at an event or snail-mail a check. Have you ever thought about the amount of effort that takes? Do you wish there was an easier way to do it?Kaylie Tiessen, a recent 20 Under 35: Young Professionals Changing the World award recipient, supports MEDA in a way that fits her busy lifestyle. By enrolling in the monthly giving program at MEDA, Kaylie gives to MEDA on a regular basis and saves time and money.Kaylie Tiessen"As an organization, MEDA stands above the rest. MEDA has the most principled, sound and mission-oriented approach to development,” says Tiessen. “I'm very busy, and giving is very important to me. Giving has to fit into my life schedule, and that's why I support MEDA monthly through recurring automatic gifts."MEDA’s monthly giving program can help with monthly budgeting and environmental sustainability. Rather than making a gift once a year, a monthly gift lets you choose an amount you’re comfortable with, and it’s easy to plan ahead. We’ll send you fewer mailings, which is environmentally friendly.Monthly giving is effortless: Automatic withdrawal means you don’t have to write a check or go online every time you want to make a gift. Your impact is maximized when we can count on your gift. To top it all off, you can feel great because you’ve made a life-changing difference every month.Join us in our mission to create business solutions to poverty today! Enroll in our monthly giving program here. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Sarah French, coordinator, donor relations, if you have any questions about enrollment.Kaylie Tiessen is an economist working as a national research representative at UNIFOR. She was recently featured in the United Church Canada's UCObserver.
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Moringa Tree Sensitization Workshop

My name is Steve Hogberg and I’m a week into my Enterprise Development Internship here at MEDA. I’m from Ottawa, Canada and as this is my first field mission, I find myself happy to be back in West Africa and meeting all the MEDA GROW staff in Ghana – including my fellow collaborators, Janelle and Sarah. So far I’ve travelled to Accra (the coastal capital), and Tamale and Wa in the northern parts of the country. My mission here is to work on expanding market linkages for women soy agro-entrepreneurs throughout the region. Right now I’m learning a lot about all the components of the soy bean Value Chain (or the production process from growing to processing to selling). My goal is to establish strong market linkages for women entrepreneurs to grow and sell their product at a reasonable price long after the GROW Project has ended.

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What exactly is GROW?

Before I left for Ghana, obviously everyone wanted to know more about the program I would be working with: what its objectives are, the people it works with and generally how it’s doing. While I had to be pretty vague because I didn’t really know many of the details at the time, this blog is my attempt to explain the program after two-and-a-half months here (can’t believe it’s already two months!).
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Growing Entrepreneurs, Growing Opportunities for Generations to Come

Ethiopian Fabric
Werkinish Ethiopia

“I never thought that these kind of days would come for me and my daughter. I never thought weaving would change our lives like this!” – Werkinesh Wade

MEDA launched its first project in Ethiopia in December 2010, Ethiopians Driving Growth through Trade and Entrepreneurship (EDGET), a rice and textile value chain project funded by Global Affairs Canada. The project aimed to increase incomes for 10,000 men and women farmers and textile producers in three regions of Ethiopia: Amhara, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region, and Addis Ababa. EDGET, which means ‘progress’ in the Amharic language, concentrated on integrating smallholder rice farmers and textile artisans into high value markets through increased market linkages and enhanced productivity.

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Can Corporate Partnerships Promote Gender Equality?

With 2015 behind us and a new year on the horizon, what have we learned and where can we focus in 2016? In September 2015, the McKinsey Global institute launched a report that provided hard data to show the scale of the global economic deficit caused by gender inequality. The key finding is now often quoted: if women’s participation in the economy was on par with men’s it would add $28 trillion to the annual global GDP by 2025. This is a clarion call to action but the path is much harder to navigate. To achieve gender parity globally would require huge investments in societal and political will and resources. It would require sweeping attitudinal changes toward a valuation of women’s work (productive and unpaid) and significant leaps in investments by governments in agriculture, industry and service sectors. Serious attention would need to be paid to what the McKinsey Institute calls the enablers of economic opportunity: reproductive rights for women, physical security, legal protection and political voice amongst others.

Reducing barriers is critical but so is creating opportunities for women to participate equitably in the economy alongside men. Fortunately, this appears to be a strategy that is gaining momentum. There is increasing recognition that in the pursuit of gender equality, collaboration between private sector actors, governments and civil society can create wins on all sides. Last year, the United Nations intentionally reinvigorated the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) launched in 2010 to promote gender equality in the workplace, marketplace and community. Under the mantra, Equality Means Business, the WEPs aim to mobilize corporations around the business case for gender equality. The principles are:

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Approach with Humility: Reflections for International Development Week

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I had the great privilege of seeing writer and journalist Nina Munk deliver a keynote address at the recent International Forum, put on by WUSC and CECI. I’d read her book – The Idealist – last year and found it very thought provoking, and – perhaps surprisingly, for a book on foreign aid – a genuine page-turner.

Nina Munk delivers keynote address at the WUSC - CECI International Forum

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MEDA's Evolving Approach to Youth Financial Inclusion

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On Friday January 22, MEDA is very pleased to be participating in the International Forum, hosted by WUSC and CECI. The theme of the forum is ‘Inclusive Economies, Inclusive Societies: Collaborative Action for Youth and Women.’ We will be presenting a case study on our approach to financial inclusion for youth. This blog gives a preview of what we will be discussing at the event. Hope to see you there!

What is financial inclusion and why is it important?

Financial inclusion means having access to a range of suitable, affordable services, including savings (formal and informal), loans and financial education. Access to youth-appropriate savings and loan products helps young people plan for their future. Youth-friendly financial services can lead to many positive outcomes, including heightened ability to manage money, build assets and improved opportunities for entrepreneurship. And yet, less than 5% of youth (ages 15-24) worldwide are currently being reached by financial services.

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E-FACE comes to an end: The closing of a fantastic project

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I had the privilege of working on the E-FACE (Ethiopians Fighting Against Child Exploitation) project during its last year of implementation, during which time I was able to research and consolidate information on the project and how it worked with youth in Ethiopia. The project worked with both youth and adults to address the issue of exploitative labour.

Above: MEDA’s Farah Chandani with youth from the Building Skills for Life Program

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Youth Agricultural Sales Agents: Building Youth Entrepreneurship in Rural Areas

This blog shares a summary of the findings and lessons from the E-FACE project’s pilot intervention to build youth entrepreneurship among rural communities in Gamo Gofa and Wolaita districts in Southern Ethiopia. The full case study can be found on MEDA’s YEO website.

The Youth Agricultural Sales Agent (YASA) program provided 250 young people (138 male, 112 female), aged 14 to 17 years, with business skills training to increase their knowledge of markets, as well as life skills training to improve their confidence and communication. The technical and entrepreneurial skills provided by the training program were complemented with start-up kits to transition the youth from exploitative labor to productive work.

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Women as Catalysts for Change: Reflections from a former GROW intern in Ghana

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Why do you focus on women?

Over the last year, living here in Tamale, Ghana, and working with rural women farmers on our Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) project- I’ve expanded my understanding of the gender issues in northern Ghana drastically. Here, women and men face many cultural barriers, social expectations and a lack of opportunities due to poverty. In short, gender issues here are complex, messy and deeply rooted in daily routines.

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A 10 year Milestone: Helen Loftin’s Experiences Working with Women Empowerment Projects at MEDA

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It’s approaching the 10 year mark. That is, in February 2016, I will have been with MEDA and in the international development industry for 10 years. I began with the management of our small but mighty value chain development project in Pakistan, “Behind the Veil”. Its design and impact is held as an industry standard for effective pro-poor programming and for women’s economic empowerment and I shamelessly brag about it because I had nothing to do with its design. And as a newcomer to international development, to a Muslim country, and to Mennonites (MEDA), I imprinted in several ways on that project.

We’re much more alike than we are different. We say that often at MEDA when talking about the world around us, our work in it, and the motives and incentives that guide human behaviour.

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Linking Young Entrepreneurs with Nigerian Micro-Finance Banks

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Youth Unemployment in Cross River State was pegged at 46 percent by Senator Liel Imoke, the past governor of Cross River State in 2013 during the commissioning of the Central Bank of Nigeria sponsored Entrepreneurship Development Centres in Calabar.1

With little and near absence of employment opportunities in the Nigerian public sector, youth unemployment has become a great concern for the government of Cross River State Nigeria. While past governments made spirited efforts to find solutions to this through national and international collaborative programs on entrepreneurship and various skills acquisition programs; the population of urban and rural unemployment continues to increase. A conscious probing into the cause of the enigma of unemployment in the state points in the direction of a number of factors such as insufficient skills, access to finance, incompatible/unenforced policies, poor infrastructure, poor educational system, etc.

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Arriving in Ghana

Accra from Jamestown Lighthouse

 

A view of Accra taken from Jamestown Lighthouse

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