MEDA Blog - Stories from the Field

Green Finance: to bravely go where no-one has gone before…


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.

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SSBVC: Let's Listen to Local Leaders


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.SSBVC aims to increase job creation by sustainably improving the business performance of small, growing businesses (SGBs) and small entrepreneurs (SEs). By partnering with growth-oriented SGBs (lead firms), we work to design and implement programs that have micro and macro effects on the economy.Local businesses are our leaders. We have the privilege of working with locally established entrepreneurs who are willing to partner with SEs and connect them to the end market.On Aug. 19 MEDA had the pleasure of welcoming six members of Canada’s parliament to our SSBVC project. Global Affairs Canada (GAC) heard about the success of our project in Tanzania and came to see the results for themselves.During their visit, the MPs met with Jackma, a sunflower oil processor and one of SSBVC’s most socially minded and advanced lead firms. Jackma is considered an advanced lead firm because it has been working successfully for over a year. Its social-mindedness comes from its interest in integrating women and youth into its business strategy.Georges Ndenga, SSBVC’s regional operations manager, was proud to lead the group through the project’s inner workings and facilitate a discussion with Jackma. Georges addressed questions regarding environmentally conscious farming, the integration of women and youth into lead firms, the qualification process and criteria, and how spending is tracked.Canada has long been interested in partnering with the government of Tanzania to help them achieve sustainable economic growth by strengthening the business environment for start-ups and creating greater access to financial services for entrepreneurs.By partnering with successful businesses and positively impacting their communities, we receive relevant, current information on the local business environment to make informed decisions that serve the community.With funding from GAC and the help of local lead firms, we are reaching out to 250 small, growing business and 10,000 small entrepreneurs!Business women and men in Tanzania know what they are doing. They are knowledgeable, intelligent and effective entrepreneurs who can teach us a thing or two.
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From Theory to Practice: interning with MEDA

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.A common misconception about gender equality is that it solely benefits women, exclusive of men. But this is not the case! Men are integral actors in the fight for gender inclusivity! International movements like UN Women’s He for She are great examples of how men and people from all gender identities are included in the conversation. Being an intern at MEDA was a great hands-on experience. During my time with MEDA I was able to apply the theory and knowledge that I had learned in the classroom. Practice and hands-on experience are all part of the learning process and MEDA provided a great environment to ask questions, learn and reflect.
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High Commission of Canada Visits GROW

bibeauedit1Ghana 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.

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Business for Good: Women-led Social Enterprises in Africa and the Middle East

Traditional Maasai Beaded Jewelry, Sidai Designs, TanzaniaTraditional Maasai Beaded Jewelry, Sidai Designs, Tanzani
What is a Social Enterprise?

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
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What factors should Canada consider as we build a DFI? MEDA weighs in

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MEDA joined the discussion on Canada's plans for a development finance institution recently.

Senior VP programs Jerry Quigley spoke to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development June 15 by video link.

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Two women, eight teams trekking for women in Ghana

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Two adventurous women are trekking Ontario’s 900-km Bruce Trail in July in support of women farmers involved in MEDA’s Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) project in Ghana.

GROW focuses on improving food security for families in Northern Ghana by assisting women farmers to grow more soybeans and forge market links that will increase incomes.

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Souderton, PA, experiences sights, smells, sounds of world at MEDA night market

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MEDA once again brought the world to Souderton’s doorstep with the second World Night Market June 3. More than 3,000 people attended the event at Souderton Shopping Center, enjoying live music, international foods, an “escape from poverty” room, soccer and more.

The diverse crowd visited tents highlighting 10 different countries where MEDA creates business solutions to poverty through economic empowerment projects. Lead sponsor Hoover Steel, premier sponsors Bergey’s Electric and Perkiomen Tours, along with other sponsors and more than 150 volunteers made this event possible.

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Mentorship key to business success, MEDA Professional Panel agrees

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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. 

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Your guide to MEDA 2017 convention keynoters

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Mark your calendar – Don’t miss this exciting line-up of keynotes!

Please plan to join us Nov 2-5 in Vancouver at MEDA's Business As a Calling Convention 2017: Building Bridges to Enduring Livelihoods. You will be challenged and inspired on timely issues near to your heart and mind as we seek to create lasting change for people living in poverty.

Here's our list of 2017 keynote speakers:

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Encouraging Findings from Katesh, Manyara

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 aboutmasava1 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.

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Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is power. This is the phrase that comes to mind when I think about Women Empowering Women with MEDA (WEW). Through the WEW network, North American women are gaining knowledge of different cultures and issues that affect women in the developing world. This knowledge empowers them to contribute to the advancement of women globally by supporting MEDA projects. In turn, through MEDA projects, women clients are gaining knowledge of sustainable agriculture practices, market information, business skills and new technology. With this knowledge, they are able to improve their livelihoods and help create more inclusive, social, economic and environmental systems that provide their families and communities with a viable future.

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Night markets, Myanmar style

20170428 193923 low resNight markets originated in Asian cultures, and they’re quickly spreading to cultures far and wide. A night market takes place just after dusk and can go into the wee hours of the morning. Tent vendors, food vendors and musicians gather to block a street and create a unique atmosphere with all the smells, sounds and activities of a normal marketplace.

In Hpa-An, the capital of Kayin State, Myanmar, the night market starts up as the heat of the day begins to dissipate into a welcoming warm evening.

Families gather for their evening meal on the east bank of the Thanlwin (Salween) River, amidst a range of vendors cooking small pancakes, patties, dumplings and other "fast" foods.

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What is ESG and SRI? How are they applied at MEDA?

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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.

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Tool kit to help Myanmar farmers adapt to climate change

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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.

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UHBDP awards first environmental innovation grants

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Background: Ukraine’s agriculture sectorThird-largest economic sectorProvides 20% of country’s employmentSmall and medium farms produce majority of fruits and vegetables, yet remain disconnected from markets and isolated from supply chainsBackground: UHBDP

MEDA’s seven-year Ukraine Horticulture Business Development Project, which started in 2014, is providing the tools, training and opportunity people need to grow their businesses. Farmers can create a sustainable small-scale operation through access to finance to invest in their operation, and training on better agricultural practices from local agricultural training institutes.

Environmental Innovation Competitive Matching Grants

Now, competitive matching grants for environmental innovation will support innovative environmental solutions that demonstrate value to horticulture farm production​. While the awards are targeted at registered commercial farmers, and small-medium enterprises serving horticulture industry in the region, they will also and help the project team determine future action on environmental issues.

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Centre has big potential to develop clean sources of energy

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.

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A personal case of gender reframing

“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

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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.

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New Year, New Spaces and New Growth

Last week Women Empowering Women with MEDA (WEW) groups in Lancaster and the Delaware Valley met for our first meeting of 2017. Several things have changed over the past year including the addition of a new WEW group meeting in Waterloo, ON and new event spaces in both Pennsylvania locations. In our first year, the WEW network raised a total of $33,000 to support women entrepreneurs around the world including women farmers and their families in Ghana and Ukraine. We heard the stories of MEDA clients and learned how MEDA’s work has helped them reach their full potential by overcoming barriers that stand in the way of business success and sustainable livelihoods. We also learned why the unique contributions of women are key to the creation of just, peaceful and prosperous communities and economies.

The women involved in MEDA's Libya Women Economic Empowerment (LWEE) project are perfect examples of this.

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Agribusiness in Haiti: Challenges and Opportunities

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.

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