Bizoro Razakova lives with her husband, two sons and their families in the very traditional county Chorku. Bizoro is a graduate from the university in Dushanbe and has worked for thirty years as a biology and geography teacher in Chorku. In the last few years, she held the position of chairwoman of Chorku, before she went into early retirement in the young age of 54. And she enjoys it. Now she can fully concentrate on her 'hobby' and main income, gardening and food preservation with MEDA's Pro-Poor Agricultural Development project.
After 10 years of administrating her mother's Dressmaking Shop, 31 year old and mother of two, Angela Gisell Hernandez is now the owner of this shop that provides jobs for seven family heads. She purchases raw material, designs, sews and is also in charge of sales and marketing of the finished products.
Her designs include dresses, slacks, skirts and blouses. "My creativity comes from watching my mother day after day design and sew," said this bright eyes petite lady.
Hawawu Issahaku lives with her husband and two young sons in the community of Goh in northern Ghana. The villagers live in mud brick homes surrounded by lush farm fields; a dirt road links to other communities.
Hawawu's home is well kept, the courtyard swept, her kitchen fireplace carefully cleaned, the clay water pot full. There are signs of industry everywhere – a flock of chickens, goats, rabbits in an enclosure. Drying in the courtyard are the shea nuts Hawawu has gathered; shea trees grow wild across the scrub land of northern Ghana.
A story of two Business Owners who are 'Modeling the way'
The working conditions for youth in the textile industry are often overlooked. Business owners are more focused on getting the money out of the youth. MEDA has been working with weavers for more than two years and now through the E-FACE project, it is focusing on youth who are exploited because of their poverty and their lack of awareness. MEDA's intervention in the E-FACE project started first with addressing the work relations with the business owners (BOs) and their working youth to initiate behavioral & attitudinal changes. BOs were motivated to experiment creating a positive conducive environment for the working youth. This ultimately should, impact their profits as youth begin to eagerly work and learn the skills of weaving. Introducing a code of conduct is one of the methods used in this programming.
Status: Married, 2 children
Main crop: Table grapes
Lead farmer to 20 UHDP clients
Area under Project crop: 1.5 hectares
Other source of income: wheat, sunflowers, oats
Before the Project:
My husband and I studied agriculture in St. Petersburg, Russia. We had heard about opportunities for farmers in Ukraine from my sister, and after graduating we moved to a small village in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya oblast. My husband and I began a successful grain and sunflower operation, which continues to run strong today. It had long been my dream to start an agricultural business of my own, however due to gender norms and preconceived notions of the role of women in Ukraine, this was not an easy task.
Director of Market Co-op
Co-op built 1st wholesale market in village
78 Cooperative members
20 Consistent traders
1200 people use the market every year
Market sells 100 tonnes/day during peak season.
Before the Project:
Like other farmers in the region, I grew my vegetables quite successfully, but since there was no wholesale market in our village, I had a hard time selling them. In 2005 I became part of a cooperative whose purpose was to build a wholesale market, and in 2010 I was voted Director. It made sense to have a market in our village considering almost 60% of us rely on agriculture as our primary source of income. Before cooperation with the UHDP, we realized a few small successes in building the basic infrastructure of the market and attracting a few traders to do business with us, however, relationships between farmers and traders were weak due to a lack of communication and undefined terms of business.
Client since: 2011
Status: Widowed with 2 children
Main crop: Strawberries, 1200 m2
Secondary Crop: Grapes, 1200m2
Other income: Salaried position on Village Council
Gender Innovation Fund Grant
Before the Project:
In 2011, when my husband passed away, I was left as the sole provider for my two children and elderly mother. I worked as a cashier but I did not earn nearly enough income to provide the kind of life I wanted for my family.
Thankfully, the UHDP presented me with the opportunity to participate in the Gender Innovation Fund (GIF).
MEDA’s Leamington, ON chapter members are reaching across the ocean to lend a hand to fellow greenhouse farmers participating in UHDP – the Ukraine Horticultural Development Project.
The Leamington chapter will host a delegation of 15 greenhouse growers and project staff for a 10-day visit to Leamington area greenhouse farms, buyers and co-ops from May 29 to June 5. With the largest concentration of greenhouses in North America and more than 1,500 acres “under cover,” the Leamington area is known as the greenhouse capital of North America – and the tomato capital of Canada.
I am Akhtar Bibi, a MEDA Pakistan client for the past 3 years. I hail from the village of Pandatwal in the district of Kasur. Accustomed to rising early, I am usually up and running by the time the sun sneaks past the horizon. A strong cup of tea provides me with the necessary morning kick as I start the process of milking my cows, something that I have been doing for many years.
Asrese Lemma, 52, is a farmer in Ethiopia’s Libo Kemkem district, one of the two target areas of MEDA’s EDGET (Ethiopians Driving Growth, Entrepreneurship and Trade) project. She has five children under the age of 18. Three are in school and two help their mother in daily activities at home.
Unlike here in the US, in Afghanistan children start working at an early age. Hamid is a 12 year old boy, who works as a shop apprentice for a construction shop. There are three other boys who work with him. His family is quite poor – they rent a one-room house, and only he and his older brother work, supporting eight family members.
Bernadette Valomé used to live and work in Petionville, Haiti in a large house with beautiful flower gardens. After the 2010 earthquake, she was called back to the Avenue Poupelard neighbourhood to assist her mother. She grew up in the neighbourhood and fondly remembers a big open park with trees where people could go and sit in the shade and feel the breeze.
Leo is a taxi driver living in Managua, Nicaragua and has been working at his trade for 15 years. He knows every speed bump, pot hole, over-turned stone and congested street in the city and has even managed to master the difficult directional system that Nicaraguan's proudly stand by.
Esma Khalilova- Chairperson of Umyut Cooperative
Lives in: Belagorsk region of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
Client since: 2010
Status: Married with two grown children
Main Crops: Medicinal Herbs
Other Sources of Income: Medicinal Herb Consolidator
Before the Project:
Esma Khalilova and her family came to Crimea as asylum-seekers from Uzbekistan. Poor and lacking economic opportunity, their situation was further hindered by the discrimination they faced for their Crimean Tatar heritage. Despite these conditions, Esma started the Cooperative Umyut, which means, "Hope". Now, not only is Esma the chairperson of Umyut, she is also one of the main medicinal herb consolidators in the region.
In the rural areas of Amhara, rice farmers live a hand-to-mouth existence. Having enough money to afford inputs for farming, school and household expenditures, particularly before harvest time is a significant challenge. Farmers are often forced to sell rice during harvest season when prices are low, which endangers their livelihood and hinders their income potential. As farmers are without savings habits, any surplus income earned following harvest is squandered at the local Saturday market on drinks. This was the previous experience of thirteen rice farmers who, with the assistance of Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), formed a group known as Addis Alem Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA).
One woman's story of inspiration as she plants seeds of joy, prosperity and love in Haripur
By Rida Naqvi, Communications Officer, MEDA Pakistan
While Pakistan remains a rigidly patriarchal society, the rural woman confined to her four walls remains a dominant feature of the landscape. But over the years, exceptional women have emerged from their seclusion and taken the initiative to change their circumstances.
Afghanistan has been plagued by conflict and war for three decades, creating an unfortunate legacy: many of its 30 million people have few opportunities for education and employment, resulting in a low level of skills in the country’s workforce. Despite some economic gains in recent years, most Afghans continue to struggle financially, and an estimated 90% of Afghan families rely on informal employment to support themselves.
MEDA works hard to capture the impact we have on project clients and when building capacity with partner organizations, but sometimes, says Julie Redfern, vice president of financial services, “we forget we are having a significant effect on others, too.”
While at times it may seem like the challenges of working in Haiti are insurmountable, on a recent trip MEDA president Allan Sauder also saw lots of evidence of forward movement.
“I was delighted to meet Noberta Sainta, owner of Tatie's Home bakery, a woman with a big smile and dreams within her reach. She embodies the indomitable spirit that I witnessed in a country still struggling to rebuild after last year's devastating earthquake.“
Vendor thankful for support from the American people
MEDA is working with USAID in the scenic but war-torn Swat Valley in Pakistan to help 7,200 conflict-affected residents rebuild their lives after the area was overrun by the Taliban. The Entrepreneurs Livelihoods Recovery Program aims to revitalize economic activities in the region through the distribution of micro-grants and by purchasing local goods.