MEDA’s story began in 1953. In the aftermath of World War II, Mennonites who had fled from East Germany and Russia, found themselves struggling to make a living in Paraguay. Many of them were skilled craftspeople and capable farmers who were eager to set up their own businesses but lacked the required financial capital and resources.
Following a historic meeting in Chicago, a group of generous Mennonites pooled their resources and sent financial support to Paraguay for over 35,000 Mennonites who now called it home. With the assistance of MEDA and their brothers and sisters in North America, the Paraguayans established businesses and formed communities that were rooted in the ideals of peace, justice, and entrepreneurship.
Eventually, MEDA realized that it could empower people to lift themselves out of poverty by supporting small businesses all over the world. This new awareness inspired a new mission and vision – to create business solutions to poverty. Over time, the organization expanded its services and expertise to countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America.
Today, we continue the work of our founders. Through generous support from private and institutional donors, we empower small businesses, entrepreneurs, and small-scale farmers in agri-food systems with the tools they need to build successful enterprises, learn new skills, and grow higher quality and environmentally sustainable crops. This has led to prosperity for millions of farmers, small businesses, and communities in the Global South and beyond.
For details of the history of the organization, see the following timeline: