Seeing the value of partnerships first-hand

Left-to right: Bernhard Landes, Ben Horsch and Agnes Horsch | Photo by Mike Strathdee

German MEDA supporters reflect on Senegal visit

For Ben Horsch, visiting MEDA’s AVENIR project in Senegal has given him new perspectives to share with his friends, family, and neighbors back home in Germany. One of the key narratives he plans to share about Senegal is the need for a shift in European perceptions of Africa. “The way Europeans think about Africa is quite different from the reality,” he said. Horsch will tell people about meeting committed entrepreneurs who are working to create jobs. “The difference is … we saw people that were well educated. Those entrepreneurs that we saw here, they knew exactly what they want. The biggest problem for them is access to capital. Success will come. They will do it.”

Horsch was part of a group of 15 people who visited MEDA project sites in early May. The group included three Germans, 11 Americans, and two Canadians. The group had the opportunity to meet several MEDA clients, including two food processing firms, a horticultural co-op, and a rice demonstration farm.

Agnes Horsch examines mango pulp being dried as compost at the T&M factory in Baconding, Senegal | Photo by Randy Sawatzky

For Ben Horsch’s wife, Agnes, the Senegal trip was the first time that she had visited a MEDA project. “I knew about the problems here (in the Global South),” she said. “But to see it was another thing.” A farmer’s wife whose parents were farmers, Agnes Horsch did farm field labor as a girl. That helps her to understand some of the challenges facing small-scale women farmers. “The organization of these (small-scale Senegalese) farms will change,” she predicted. “They need credit. They need systems.”

Bernhard Landes, a farmer and renewable energy systems developer, agrees. He was impressed by Moulaye Biaye and Tina Ephraim, a young couple that left good jobs in Europe to create jobs for others in rural Senegal. “They come back, basically in the middle of nowhere, and start this business. They take their own money and invest it.” He was also struck by the commitment shown by a man who started a business processing baobab nuts with no capital backing and has built it into a substantial enterprise, providing jobs for rural women.

MEDA is partnering with both of those firms, providing access to capital that will allow them to purchase equipment to expand and create more jobs. “That’s the right way to (partner with) somebody,” Landes said. The Horsch family have been longtime MEDA supporters. Ben Horsch recalls his father, Dankwert, a MEDA board member in the late 1970s, talking about MEDA many times as he was growing up. “It was always present in my mind,” he said.

When Ben Horsch was younger, he was interested in development work. He traveled to several parts of the world to see the work of a number of agencies, which he prefers not to name. What he saw left him frustrated. “My conclusion, what I saw, was that all that those boys did was not a help for people in those countries. They caused more trouble in those countries, or wasted money, or whatever. Their job was in vain. It was just for nothing.”

He is much happier with MEDA’s business-oriented approach. When entrepreneurs succeed, “it will be a big benefit for the region, and the people,” he said. The Horsch family foundation regularly supports MEDA. That support will continue through the next generation, he said.

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