70 Years of Catalyzing Agricultural Investments and Impact in Paraguay

Cassava crops on a CODIPSA truck in Paraguay.
CODIPSA was created in 1998 by members of MEDA Paraguay as a small cassava starch business.

For 70 years, MEDA has been accelerating business value creation through its investments in entrepreneurs. The organization has worked in 79 countries over its long history. Yet there is one country where MEDA’s ability to catalyze investments is perhaps best illustrated: Paraguay.

The beginning: MEDA invests in the Sarona Dairy

MEDA’s history in Paraguay began in a post-World War II world when several thousand Mennonites fled from East Germany and Russia to the South American country. As this group established farms and businesses in Paraguay, Mennonite businesspeople in North America began searching for a sustainable way to support their counterparts in South America. In 1953, they landed on pooling their resources and sent financial assistance to support business opportunities for these new entrepreneurs. This decision formed the basis for what would become MEDA and kick-started 70 years of investing in Paraguay’s agricultural transformation.

Over the years, MEDA’s work has spanned across sectors within Paraguay’s agri-food system. This trajectory began with an investment in the Sarona Dairy. By providing the capital needed for smallholder dairy farmers to build up their operations into commercial enterprises, Sarona became a sustainable and prosperous business, creating significant employment opportunities in the country.

Expansion into the cassava industry

Several decades later, MEDA added another key crop to its portfolio by investing in the cassava industry in Paraguay. CODIPSA was created in 1998 by members of MEDA Paraguay as a small cassava starch business that aimed to generate sustainable income for farming families living in rural areas. Through the MEDA Risk Capital Fund, CODIPSA began receiving equity investments from MEDA in 2009 to help propel its growth.

After 25 years in operation, CODIPSA has grown from a small business to become the leading company in Paraguay’s cassava industry. The company now exports its cassava starch globally and plays an important role in generating decent work opportunities. CODIPSA employs 168 direct collaborators and provides assistance to an additional 4,000 producers. The company has also built environmental sustainability into its DNA, supporting reforestation efforts where it operates, and proving that environmental impact positively impacts its business value and bottom line. In November 2023, CODIPSA was recognized for these achievements. It was awarded the Premios Adeo 2023 Company of the Year, showcasing the immense value of catalytic capital that is focused on agri-food systems.

The future of catalytic capital

As MEDA continues to expand its investments and impact globally, Paraguay serves as an ongoing example of the sustainable impact investments in entrepreneurs can have. These investments have the potential to boost business value, job creation, and both social and environmental impacts for those growing, producing, and distributing our food and beyond.

Learn more about CODIPSA’s achievement as the Premios Adeo 2023 Company of the Year:

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  • MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates)

    MEDA is an international economic development organization that creates business solutions to poverty. We work in agri-food market systems, focusing primarily on women and youth in rural communities in the Global South. Our success is measured by income, improved processes, increased knowledge, and the creation of decent work.

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