We arrived in Mwanza in the morning – my arrival in Dar es Salaam was the night before (and our departure from Dar was in the dark too).
MEDA is on the move. With projects in 60 countries around the world building on partnerships with hundreds of local leaders and businesses, there is no shortage of MEDA momentum as staff strive to alleviate poverty through savvy business solutions.
The flurry of activity is not limited to seemingly far-away corners of the world.
MEDA supporters in the United States and Canada interact with MEDA’s mission through an increasingly diverse lineup of year-round events utilizing local leadership.
Katie West: Let’s start with something easy. What is GROW?
Karen Walsh: GROW is a food security program that is looking at changing the lives of over 20,000 women and their families. The goal is to provide consistent access to food throughout the year – in every season.
Just like Captain Kirk, we are on a journey of discovery.
Individuals, communities, cities, countries, businesses and organizations are heading into uncharted territory - making brave and unique decisions to combat global environmental challenges.
Sometimes, you don’t have to recreate the wheel.
At MEDA, we do our best to partner with already functioning entities and systems. Why start from scratch when you don’t have to?Our Strengthening Small Business Value Chains (SSBVC) project in Tanzania is one such example. Before we began working in Tanzania, we saw the potential of existing lead firms and decided to support and strengthen the business systems that were already in place and demonstrating how they could improve supply chains.
Working as an intern at MEDA was an exciting opportunity; I eagerly anticipated applying the theory I had learned in class to a professional organization that provides business solutions to poverty as Gender Programming Coordinator.
At the University of Waterloo, I learned the theory behind social development through courses in psychology, sociology and social work. These are relevant to MEDA’s work in gender development and equality because they teach students how to empower and advocate for the rights of those who cannot advocate for themselves. I learned to analyze and reflect on various social issues that people are currently experiencing around the world from an interdisciplinary and innovative perspective, just as MEDA does.
MEDA is solution-focused, working to provide business solutions to poverty through training, entrepreneurship and investment. MEDA provides agency by partnering with people as they seek to change their circumstances through entrepreneurship. As an intern, I had a front-row seat to the effective work of MEDA. I watched as MEDA staff prioritized individuals and communities. I watched as they implemented projects that benefited everyone – including women and youth.
Promoting gender equality through economic development is an important factor when helping individuals and families escape from poverty as it benefits everyone. When women are treated as equals, our world changes. That’s why it is important to include gender equality in all aspects – political, economical and social.
Ghana has emerged as one of Africa’s economic success stories, with steady economic growth in its agriculture and mining sectors.
Ghana and Canada have had a long and prosperous relationship, with Ghana being one of the first nations in Africa to establish diplomatic ties with Canada.
On July 8, 2017, MEDA’s Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) project in Ghana was pleased to welcome the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Development and La Francophonie to view GROW and share information on the challenges faced by women and girls in remote northern areas of the country.
A social enterprise is an organization with two primary and interlinked goals: to generate revenue, and to achieve positive social or environmental outcomes. In attempting to balance profit generation with social goals, a social enterprise straddles the private and volunteer sectors.1
A small but dynamic group discussed the secrets to success in business at MEDA's Professional Panel: Business Insight from Local Leaders event May 24 in Waterloo, ON at Conrad Grebel University College.
An estimated 20 students, panelists, MEDA staff, MEDA Waterloo chapter members, and other young professionals discussed a wide range of topics, from the need to be passionate about what you’re doing, work/life balance, and the importance of philanthropy, to time management.
The small clinic in Katesh, Manyara is full of young mothers bedecked in brightly colored kitenges. While some have small children, all are here to learn more about Vitamin A fortified oil, a product that improves eyesight and strengthens immunity. At the front of the room, clinic staff emphatically describe Vitamin A's health benefits, occasionally asking the audience questions to ensure the message is being heard. I remember to take the clinic's GPS coordinates. They will be helpful when I conduct a spatial analysis of all the retail shops and BCC activities in the area.
Behold the scene that unfolded before my eyes in Katesh, Manyara, one of MASAVA's two target regions in Tanzania. My visit to Katesh was part of a larger project to measure the effectiveness of behavioral change campaigns ("BCC") on oil sales. Previous research had showed that BCC campaigns were successful in raising greater awareness about the presence of Vitamin A fortified oil in the market. However, raising awareness about a product is one thing. The question that sparked my curiosity was if greater awareness inspired consumers to buy oil. I was in Katesh to interview attendees and find out.My findings were encouraging. Nearly all participants–young, old, man, woman—said they would buy Vitamin A fortified sunflower oil despite the higher cost.
ESG investing is when one uses environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria during the portfolio construction and/or analysis processes. ESG investing came out of the field of socially responsible investing (SRI).
Arguably, SRI can be used as an umbrella term for many buzz terms: ESG investing, impact investing, ethical investing, values based investing, green investing, among others. The important similarity is they approach investing through some form of environmental, social, or corporate governance perspective.
Farmers in Myanmar, as in many other countries, are starting to recognize the need to address climate change to safeguard their livelihoods. They are vulnerable in terms of the potential for increased food insecurity, flooding, drought, and rain patterns variations that are causing climate-driven migration.
In Myanmar, the agriculture sector contributes 33% of GDP. The livelihoods of rural communities and the productivity of the agricultural sector as a whole are largely influenced by climate conditions in these areas: The agricultural sector is impacted by late or early onset of monsoon season, longer dry spells, erratic rainfall, increasing temperature, heavy rains, stronger typhoons and flooding – all occurring with greater frequency.
In March 2017, team members from MEDA’s EMERTA (Ethiopians Motivating Enterprises to Rise in Trade and Agri-business) project visited Bahir Dar Energy Centre at Bahir Dar Polytechnic University in Ethiopia. The two-year old centre is equipped with technology for teaching graduate students about solar, wind, and biomass energy production.
“Essentially all of the income gains that middle-class American families have experienced since 1970 are due to the rise in women’s earnings.”
-Economic Report of the President (US), 20151
I always took pride in my work for human development. The fact that my vocation and passion makes tangible lasting impact on the lives of the vulnerable poor, steered my growth and does so even today. Ten years ago, I was having a cup of tea one foggy winter morning in Dhaka, contemplating how SMEs are the driving force for the economic growth of a country such as Bangladesh. It dawned on me then that much of that growth has left vulnerable marginalized groups including youth and women behind. There is still so much left to do – and with this thought I finished my breakfast, which includes a pair of samosas made lovingly by my mother – a housewife in an upper middle class family of four.
The physical terrain of Central Haiti is quite similar to the agribusiness landscape: difficult to navigate, very few clear routes and lots of obstacles to overcome. The CLM+ team, myself included, really hoped that drip irrigation systems could help our female pepper producers significantly boost production. While we have yet to complete our empirical evaluation of the systems – this will have to wait until after this season’s harvest –limited access to water remains a major challenge to our members. Imagine walking for an hour in the hot sun on steep, narrow and rocky footpaths to a small creak, filling a five gallon bucket, and then retracing your long and hot journey with the full bucket (about 45 pounds or 20 kilos) on your head. Then repeat this process 11 more times...barefoot. It’s no wonder then that when visiting fields with our staff agronomist, we often find the irrigation drums empty.
The international development community is accustomed to project implementation taking place in-field by local Non-Governmental Organizations. As such, there are certain norms and expectations which have developed over the decades. With increased investment in blended finance models and grant-based incentives being awarded to private-sector entities, it is important to understand some of the major differences between how commercial entities manage ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) grants as compared to traditional NGO implementation. In our work through INFRONT and other experiences of the Investment Technical Team, we have seen that there are 3 major areas where commercial entities differ from NGOs in this respect.
To mark International Women’s Day 2017, MEDA hosted a poster competition between its international projects to highlight the gender equality and women's economic empowerment work MEDA does around the world. In total, there were 11 posters submitted from MEDA's various projects, and each one of them highlighted how the project is working towards gender equality by showcasing a partner, lead firm or woman who is being bold for change in their community.
Mo Bi is one of our female-lead farmers on MEDA’s Improving Market Opportunities for Women (IMOW) project in Myanmar. This means that Mobi is a model farmer who serves as a leader to a group of women farmers and demonstrates good agricultural and business practices to her community. Along with other lead farmers, Mo Bi receives technical training, leadership and mentorship training, and are linked to savings to improve their financial literacy. MEDA works with key facilitating partners, like METTA in Shan state of Myanmar, and provides technical support and gender sensitization trainings for staff and key market actors. These key market actors include: agricultural extension workers, input suppliers and commodity collectors, who are all members of the IMOW community, but may not have engaged with women before working with MEDA on IMOW.
The most powerful attraction is MEDA’s Ethiopia team – their hospitality, dedication to the development of their country, intelligence, and the humility with which they approach their work that reminds me of our Mennonite members in Waterloo. It is precisely the support they provide me for all my assignments in Ethiopia and the diligence with which they follow up that strengthens my belief that great results are possible only with great teams.
Although it has been two years since the project began operations Tanzania, on February 2nd MEDA organized and hosted the official launch event for the KUZA-BIASHARA-SAWIA project which was attended by dignitaries from both the Tanzanian and Canadian governments, private organizations, other NGOs, and a number of businesses currently involved in the SSBVC project.