Stimulating system change and addressing underlying causes of poverty: Inside MEDA’s CoP Workshop  

MEDA has committed to reducing poverty in the Global South and has taken bold steps to address the root causes of poverty and marginalization. But what does it take to address poverty at scale and in a sustainable manner? This question was the subject of a four-day workshop held for the MEDA Community of Practice (CoP) on market system development. 

Despite the progress made in reducing poverty through aid and international development programming, there are still many challenges facing countries in the Global South. The effectiveness of development approaches has been a subject of controversy and scrutiny, with critics questioning the impact and sustainability of development interventions. Recognizing the need to tackle the real causes of poverty, MEDA has adopted the inclusive market system approach which is vital to addressing the root causes of poverty. 

Inclusive Market System Development: A Holistic Approach

Inclusive market system development is a strategy that aims to create economic and social structures where all individuals and groups can participate and benefit from markets. It involves developing economic and social systems that are accessible, equitable, and sustainable, with opportunities for all to thrive. 

Inclusive market system development has proven effective in dealing with the complicated challenges of underdevelopment. In 2019, MEDA took the intervention one step further by adopting the triple impact approach, which addresses economic, social, and environmental issues of underdevelopment. 

Capacity Building through a Four-Day Workshop

To build staff capacity to spearhead market systems transformation, MEDA organized a four-day training workshop on inclusive market systems for its ‘Community of Practice’ on inclusive market systems development. The CoP comprises individual staff members responsible for developing inclusive market systems in their respective countries. The training held in Naivasha, Kenya, brought together over 20 staff members from various countries, including Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Senegal, Canada and Nicaragua.  

The purpose was to enhance the participants’ understanding of inclusive market systems and equip them with practical tools and approaches to design and implement effective market development interventions. Led by MEDA’s experienced market development practitioners, the sessions covered a range of topics, including market systems analysis, value chain development, private sector engagement, and monitoring and evaluation. The interactive training included group exercises, discussions, and case studies, encouraging active participation and learning by all participants.  

Trainers emphasized the importance of understanding the needs and aspirations of marginalized groups, such as women, youth, and small-scale farmers, and incorporating them into market development interventions. The practical nature of the training received appreciation from the participants, who highlighted the benefits of applying the concepts and tools learned in their respective countries. The workshop provided an opportunity for participants to take stock, share experiences, and critically review the current market system approaches and applications in the context of MEDA’s interventions. The underlying causes for project failure were also discussed, with a focus on learning and actions to improve project delivery. 

The Role of MEDA’s Community of Practice (CoP)

MEDA’s Community of Practice plays a vital role in advancing inclusive market systems development in the countries where MEDA operates. By investing in the capacity of its staff members to deliver high-quality market development interventions, MEDA is creating opportunities for marginalized communities to thrive. 

Trainings such as this four-day workshop allow MEDA to better address the underlying causes of poverty and create a more sustainable impact in the communities it serves. By building the capacities of its staff, MEDA is taking a crucial step towards stimulating systems change and addressing the root causes of poverty. 

 In the future, MEDA hopes to share the lessons learned from the workshop and our work in inclusive market system development with organizations who will follow MEDA’s lead and adopt innovative approaches to tackle the complex challenges of poverty in the Global South. By working together, we can create a more just and equitable world for all. 

Some selected reflections from participants

As a member of the Market Systems Community of Practice (CoP) at MEDA, I have been exchanging ideas on best practices across diverse projects within MEDA. The IMSD training last April was a big step forward to further enhance the technical expertise of MEDA MS CoP members globally by providing training on strategies for inclusivity as we talk, plan, design, and implement market development at a systems level. The four frameworks of Adapt, Adopt, Expand, and Respond were broadly discussed with practical examples from projects and programs. For me, the key takeaway from the training was the need to continuously evaluate projects and identify indicators of positive change towards an inclusive systems level change that sustains well beyond the life of the project. 

Alemtsehai Ejigu, Country Director for MEDA’s EMERTA project

The CoP meeting was a very fulfilling one for me in Naivasha, Kenya. My knowledge of MEDA’s Inclusive Market System Development (IMSD) approaches and how they contribute to decent work creation has further deepened. Meeting in person and exchanging ideas with colleague CoP members for the first time was a great experience, thus strengthening the bond among CoP members. I now feel very comfortable reaching out to CoP colleagues for any support on Inclusive Market System Development challenges. The field visit to VegPro in Nairobi was an excellent experience as it provided me with the practical feel of discussions had during the workshop. I will transfer the knowledge gained on the IMSD to my staff and the Key Facilitating Partners (KFPs) that GROW2 works with.  

Jonathan Yelevielbayire, Agriculture Value Chain Manager for MEDA’s GROW2 project

The workshop contributed to the Community of Practice’s understanding of key elements that we must take into account for our interventions to be effective and scalable, as well as the importance of generating solutions and incentives that allow the different market actors to generate an impact, especially on the marginalized groups of the system. The richness of this training space was the different discussions and debates among colleagues from different parts of the world, which allowed us to learn from their experiences and expand our perspectives. The workshop provided us with the knowledge and tools to generate the necessary information to make strategic decisions in our projects and strengthened the support system among participants from different countries to continue collaborating in the construction of collective knowledge. 

Jorge Luis Gonzalez, Field Manager for MEDA’s WE4CA project

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  • Zakaria Isshaku, Ph.D.

    Technical Specialist II, Market Systems. Zakaria is MEDA’s Senior Technical Specialist for Market Systems Development. An expert in building transformative agri-food market systems, he brings almost twenty years of experience in the international development sector. As a scholar, he is a published author in academic journals. Zakaria has broad expertise in project management, market research, sustainable development, market analysis, and international development, capacity building, and climate change science.

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