MEDA in the News

DutchCrafters to sponsor MEDA's Bike to GROW

Source: "Business briefs: DutchCrafters sponsor Mennonite fundraiser" by Herald staff and wire reports for the Bradenton Herald

MANATEE – DutchCrafters Amish Furniture is sponsoring part of a bike ride to raise funds for Mennonite Economic Development Associates' GROW program. GROW supports women entrepreneurs in Ghana.

Mary Fehr and Sarah French will bike across Canada to raise $150,000 for Greater Opportunities for Rural Women. GROW assists women in obtaining seeds and other materials needed for success in rural areas. The program plans to reach more than 20,000 women within six years.

DutchCrafters will match up to $5,000 of funds raised. 

20 Under 35 honoree Siera Vercillo’s passions guide her choices

Source: "Siera Vercillo's passions guide her choices" by Dave Rogalsky for the Canadian Mennonite

In the fall of 2014, Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) presented its inaugural 20 under 35: Young Professionals Changing the World Awards, honouring young adults from Canada and the U.S. for their "faith, entrepreneurial spirit and service." Ethan Eshbach, coordinator of engagement initiatives for MEDA, explains, "20 under 35 connects the values behind MEDA's work around the world to those of young professionals here in North America." Canadian Mennonite is featuring profiles of the Canadian winners.

Siera VercilloGumani Kenneth Tshimomola nominated Siera Vercillo for Mennonite Economic Development's (MEDA) 20 under 35 award because he saw her passions and MEDA's qualifications matching so closely.

Neither Tshimomola, a South African, nor Vercillo, a Canadian, are Mennonite or connected with Mennonites, except for the work they were doing in Ghana. Ghana is the home of MEDA's Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (Grow) program. GROW uses market-driven approaches to focus on improving food security for families in Northern Ghana. Women grow soybeans for their own families, improving protein for them. As well the crops fix nitrogen in the soil, improving fertility, and the women can sell the excess.

Vercillo knew of the MEDA GROW program as she worked in Ghana with Engineers Without Borders Canada helping develop extension services for smallholder farmers. She is very excited about MEDA's work there as women increase their ties to markets, something they did in pre-colonial times. Empowering the women to do what they want with their lives fits with her passions for gender, racial and income equality. And Ghana has a place in her heart—she chose to do her PhD studies at Western University in London, Ont., even though she had invitations from other schools as well, because there is a group of Ghanaian women working there in the geography department. She is excited about collaborating with these women.

Vercillo feels that this group of women also encourages her in finding support for herself to be able to keep on attending to her passions. A Roman Catholic by upbringing, Vercillo finds that the religion of the Ghanaian women supports them to live in harmony with each other and to keep calm. It's having the same effect on her. Up to now she has been funnelling her anger and frustration into her work and has managed to stay "mostly progressive."

She sees "inequality as the greatest challenge in the world today." This leads to people not being able to live their lives as they see fit. With over 1 billion people hungry in the world, and only 1 percent of the world's population living in wealth, she sees a catastrophe happening before her eyes.

Her PhD studies are focused on agriculture, business, reducing inequality, and ensuring fairness and justice. In Ghana traditional crops and small landholdings have been replaced by larger farms and crops for sale, resulting in poverty in communities that were once self-sufficient. Hunger, poverty and stunting are on the increase, even though people are making more money. Seemingly the quality and quantity of food for the farmers has decreased. The situation is complex, as one would think that more money would result in better nutrition and life but this has not. Vercillo's work is done by collaborating with women, consulting them for what they want and need.

As the first person in her Italian immigrant family to study at the graduate level, she sees her PhD as "for the family." She has an opportunity, a privilege to ask questions in her studies, to develop tools and skills for higher level thinking, and to question the status quo in regard to development in the world. While her degree will probably lead to teaching, she wants to keep on going back to Africa to work with people there as well, testing ideas with those who are to benefit from her studies. As a white North American feminist she wants to create space for African women and men to share their thoughts, stories and needs.

Vercillo has a Masters in Gender and Development from the University of Sussex (UK), and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Political Science from the University of Toronto. There she led the responsible investment changes made to the University's multi-billion dollar investment fund. 

A giant has passed

Source: "A giant has passed" by Wally Kroeker in the Canadian Mennonite, originally appearing in The Marketplace.
Roy G Snyder
Roy G. Snyder, 99
Oct. 23. 1915 – Feb. 11, 2015

Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) lost one of its most enduring and faithful supporters on Feb. 11 with the passing of Roy G. Snyder of Waterloo, Ont. He was 99.

He was a MEDA stalwart for more than half a century. He was one of the initial board members of MEDA Canada and a signatory on its charter. He oversaw programs in the Philippines and Bolivia, the latter country producing many successful MEDA ventures. The long family connection continues with Allan Sauder, his son-in-law who is MEDA's president.

Snyder's calling and lifetime passion was the cattle industry, in which he had few equals, and for which his many recognitions include induction into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame and the Waterloo Region Hall of Fame.

He was acclaimed as "the father of artificial insemination" and pioneered the use of frozen semen and embryo transplants in cattle. Under his innovative leadership, the Waterloo Cattle Breeders Association was the first organization in the world to use 100 percent frozen semen, setting an example for the rest of the breeding industry.

Throughout his career, he travelled to 80 countries, building up Canada's semen-exporting trade. He rubbed shoulders with dignitaries and prime ministers, including John Diefenbaker and Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Diefenbaker and his wife Olive showed up at the annual "bull night" of the Waterloo Cattle Breeders Association and ended up at the Snyders' home to catch up on some rest.

Snyder had a hand in MEDA's maiden undertaking in Paraguay, which aimed to bolster the cattle herds being raised by Paraguayan Mennonites. Sustained efforts—to which Snyder contributed by sending a shipment of Holstein semen—were so successful that the Mennonite colonies virtually dominate the country's dairy industry today.

Up to the week before he died, Snyder remained engaged with MEDA. A few days before his death he was reading the last issue of The Marketplace and felt enough connection and vigor to offer a few points of critique. We will miss him. A lot.

Snyder was active in all aspects of Erb Street Mennonite Church, Waterloo, where he was a member, and on the board of Conrad Grebel University College and the Mennonite Central Committee Heifer Sale, in addition to his role with MEDA. He was a partner in the Kitchener Stock Yards, which later became St. Jacobs Market.

Snyder was predeceased by his wife Clara Belle Weber Snyder on May 21, 2005, to whom he was married for 61 years. He is survived by his sister Erma Horst and sisters-in-law Beatrice Snyder, Mable Sauder (Lewis Sauder), and Vera Weber. His surviving children are Jean (Bruce) Fretz, Nancy (John) Brubacher, Donna Snyder (Allan Sauder) and Laura (Roger) Tiessen. A memorial service was held on Feb. 15 at Erb Street Mennonite Church. 

MSCU-MEDA agricultural partnerships lead to global impact

Source: "Agricultural partnerships lead to global impact" in MSCU (Mennonite Savings and Credit Union) Share Spring 2015 Issue

We announced in our summer issue of Share that, as part of our commitment to the ongoing Farmer to Farmer partnership with MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates), we'd donate $50 for every agricultural loan we advanced in 2014. Because of your business with us, we are excited to announce that 483 loans led to a $24,150 donation in December.

This big opportunity is a result of the many successful partnerships between MSCU account managers and our members. Thank you! MEDA's current agricultural projects support farmers in countries as diverse as Ukraine, Tanzania, Nicaragua, and Ethiopia where innovative partnerships improve access to technology and markets that improve the lives of millions.

Typically, dollars donated to MEDA are used as seed funds and are multiplied seven times through partnerships with other organizations and governments to make a huge impact around the world. We also invite all members to: discover more by visiting www.meda.org; consider donating online, by cheque, or through ChangeIt; and spread the word to others about this partnership! 

20 Under 35 recipient Tiffany Meyer: Relationships important in lending

Source: "Relationships important in lending" by Dave Rogalsky for the Canadian Mennonite
Tiffany Myer
Tiffany Meyer cares for 120-plus clients at Mennonite Savings and Credit Union

NEW HAMBURG, ONT. – Coming from a conservative Mennonite Background, the Midwest Mennonite Fellowship, Tiffany Meyer absorbed what it meant to be Christian and Mennonite through both church and family. But she and her husband desired a less "bounded" faith experience and moved first to a Mennonite Brethren congregation and now to Creekside Church, a Waterloo church plant of First Baptist in Kitchener.

She believes her Mennonite background influences the work she now does at Mennonite Savings and Credit Union (MSCU), New Hamburg branch. As a twenty-something she is a senior account manager, overseeing more than 120 families in a wide range of agricultural and commercial industries.

Ben Janzen of MSCU nominated Meyer for the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) 20 under 35 honour. In an e-mail he said he nominated her because of the length of time in her role with MSCU, having served members in different branches, living out her values in the job and serving members who do similar work to what MEDA does in agricultural communities.

While not an entrepreneur herself, she serves many entrepreneurs in her work, supporting them as they create businesses. She sees her work as service, "fulfilling our purpose on earth," especially when she can give a listening ear to members with difficult stories to tell. She does the same with her friends, family and relatively new neighbours in New Hamburg, living out her internalized Christian and Mennonite values: "community, fellowship and mutual aid."

Meyer entered employment at MSCU as a teller and worked her way up, eventually going to head office in Kitchener for nine months to be trained for her current job. There are ongoing courses she takes online to keep up with her position, but a big part is building relationships with clients and families. She is glad that she has time to listen to the story, rather than just look at the numbers, especially if a client or family has fallen into a difficult situation, whether financial, health or relational.

"But this is still a business," she adds, noting that in some situations MSCU has to move to end a loan or mortgage in spite of trying other avenues first.

Meyer takes the lead in weekly meetings in the branch, reviewing lending, and making and following policies. Annually she is part of the team that reviews all files. MSCU does "not just loan and then leave [the client] for 10 years," she says.

The new connection with MEDA, including the chance to travel to the annual convention in Winnipeg last November, opened her to the sense of wanting to be more involved with MEDA in the future, although she still feels humbled to have been chosen for the award. 

Ghana's House of Chiefs pledge to assist women access land for agriculture

Naba Sigri BewongSource: "House of Chiefs pledge to assist women access land for agriculture" in myjoyonline.com

The President of the Upper East Regional House of Chiefs has called on government to support smallholder farmers to increase their productivity and income by improving the provision of agricultural extension services, irrigation services and subsidized fertilizer under the Fertilizer Subsidy Programme.

Naba Sigri Bewong was speaking at a dialogue session organized by SEND-Ghana with funding by Oxfam in Ghana which was attended by chiefs, small holder farmers and Civil Society organization in the Region.

He acknowledged that women's engagement in the agricultural sector of Ghana has come under constrained circumstances in spite of the fact that, they are responsible for up to 80% of food production.

These constraints he mentioned come from different sources broadly categorized under policy and institutional challenges as well as constraints with regards to culture and intra-household power relations and access to services.

The President of the Upper East Regional House of Chiefs pledged his support to help increase women's access to land for agriculture purposes and called on chiefs in the region to address existing challenges to women's access to agricultural lands.

Speaking at the meeting, Daniel Adotey, a Programme Officer of SEND–Ghana explained that, for us at SEND-Ghana, one of our priority working areas is to help smallholder farmers including women farmers to access all the things they need in the farming and we believe that when you support women farmer she will work get money and bring some home to take care of the children.

But we have observed that, there are some critical challenges facing smallholder farmers in this country including this region. They include access to fertilizer, access to Extension Services and more importantly access to land for farming.

All except land lies in the bosom of government. It is the Chiefs who are the custodians of the land lies in the domain of Traditional Authorities.

We have advocated for government to continue with subsidized fertilizer programme and by April of this year according to government, the subsidized fertilizer will be released.

We believe that, we have to work with the Traditional Authorities to see the need to help women to get land to till in order to earn some income to feed their families.

Our meeting therefore is to plead with Naba Sigri Bewong to work with his colleague Traditional leaders to help our women to get land for long term for the purpose of Agriculture.

Naba Sigri assured the gathering that, Sakote Traditional area has no problem releasing land for women for Agriculture purpose and therefore the issue is not a challenge. He however added that, he cannot vouch for the other Traditional areas and therefore gave the assurance that, he will convey the message to his other 17 colleague Paramount Chiefs.

He cited the Widows and Orphans Movement which is already benefitting from large land release for their 250 tree mango farm plantations in Sakote that will begin producing fruit in the next few years.

"If women want to expand their farm, there is an opportunity for them," he assured.

Monica Afana, a widow with two children complained of being robbed of her land as a result of her husband's death. According to her, about half of her farmland was forcefully taken from her by her deceased husband's elder brother.

"This has brought untold hardship on me and my children because we have to manage with the half that we have," she lamented.

The dialogue session is one of the strategic activities under the Grow Campaign in Ghana with the aim of increasing spaces for enhanced accountability and political commitment to guarantee land tenure security for women and other small-scale farmers in the face of 'land grabbing' and other land security issues in Ghana.