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.
World Water Day, on 22 March every year, is about taking action to tackle the water crisis.
One of my first experiences with global inequality was related to water. In a remote part of the Maasai Mara in Kenya, I met mothers and daughters who were obligated to make an arduous and long walk to the river, daily, to collect dirty water and carry it alone back to the homestead to prepare meals, bathe, clean, wash laundry, garden and nourish livestock. This story is not an anomaly. The world over, rural women and girls often bear the burden of collecting water for their families. Globally, it is estimated that women and girls collectively spend 200 million hours every day, or individually 6 hours a day, fetching water. In terms of distance, in Africa and Asia, it is estimated that girls and children walk an average 3.7 miles a day to fetch water.1 As a result, women and girls are at a higher risk of violence and health hazards due to isolation along rural routes, issues related to menstruation and women’s hygiene, along with heightened exposure to diseases found in unclean water.2
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.
Did you know that 2017 is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development? According to the World Tourism Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, tourism has the highest impact on poverty reduction when the poor benefits directly through employment in tourism enterprises or through establishing their own tourism-related businesses.
"Poquito a Poco: Little by Little" – how blended finance facilitates change for low-income and rural households
As MEDA's flagship blended finance program, INFRONT (Impact Investing in Frontier Markets), is in its final year of implementation, the team is focusing its efforts on dissemination and learning. We recently launched two exciting media and communications products to showcase how the project is having an impact in frontier and emerging markets through a combination of investment and technical assistance. This blog will focus on a short film that was created, that features a portfolio company based on Colombia, Rayco and describe the following aspects of the film initiative: process, partner, and promotion.
Last summer the INFRONT team started working with Twice Upon A Time to produce two short documentary films featuring Rayco and Maureauto Colombia, two companies based in Colombia that received a Sustainability Innovation Grant through the INFRONT project. The goal of these two films is to create awareness, generate empathy and present the business case of sustainability and environment, social, and governance (ESG) practices.
The Jordan Valley Links project, implemented by MEDA, supports 25,000 women and youth in the Jordan Valley to seize new opportunities in targeted sectors and to become economic actors. The goal of the project is to increase the contribution by women and youth to Jordan’s economic growth. The project focuses on three sectors: clean technology, food processing and community-based tourism. Over five years (2016-2021), MEDA will improve women and youth’s entrepreneurial and business acumen through capacity building and market linkages; and working with communities, families, and market actors to reduce entry for enterprise development for women and youth. One of the activities of the project is to highlight roles models within the areas that we operate and here is one of those stories of gender parity.
Since the Libyan revolution and ensuing conflict erupted in 2011, damage, theft, and alleged sabotage has plagued the infrastructure in Libya resulting in power outages and basic challenges for a stable life.
Electricity is essential for a stable life. We have grown accustomed and formed adaptive solutions for the increasing number of rolling brownouts over the last three years, with outages ranging from two hours up to twenty hours at a time. In January 2017, twenty hours without electricity became the daily norm for some of us and keeping warm became an exercise of the absurd - if it were not tragic - as we were dressed for the “north pole” in our homes, but we were not able to keep food and medicine cold. Libya is also dependent on electric pumps for water, which adds to the challenges of daily life. Water travels from thousands of kilometers away in the south through the Great Man Made River pipelines, and without electricity, there is no way for the water to reach the tanks in our homes. Adding to these woes is a shortage of cash, which has prevented ordinary citizens from accessing their money in banks, plus a skyrocketing foreign exchange market and an inflation index of over 29% that has made accessing alternative means of electricity, water, and fuel nearly impossible.
Empowering women in rural, northern Ghana—where nearly 80% of women have never attended school, is no small feat. With some smart marketing and production support for farmers, agribusinesses are now buying the idea.
Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) is a six-year project funded by both the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) and Global Affairs Canada (GAC). The main goal of the project is to improve food security for families in the Upper West Region of Ghana by assisting women farmers to increase productivity, link to sustainable markets, and improve nutrition practices.
The implementation of the GROW project started in 2013 with a goal of reaching 20,000 women farmers using a value chain approach. Through a mixed methods data gathering approach including interviews and surveys, MEDA recently developed and published a case study that examines the role of market actors and their profitability as they have engaged with the GROW project and female farmers. This blog shares some of the results.
To mark International Women’s Day 2017, MEDA is highlighting important issues and voices around women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in the area of economic development. This is the fourth in our “Be Bold for Change” blog series celebrating the power of women entrepreneurs and their partners around the world.
We all know what gets measured gets done. If we are measuring attendance at a particular training, the training will take place and will likely be well-attended. If we are measuring adoption of a new farming technique, chances are there will be efforts to support farmers in adopting. If we are measuring redemption of equipment discount vouchers, there will be activities in place to distribute the vouchers and disseminate information on the merits of the equipment. When the targeted outcome is women’s economic empowerment, having clear indicators for measurement is equally important, but for more complex. How do we know we are making a real difference in the lives of our female clients? Are we moving the needle?
To mark International Women’s Day 2017, MEDA is highlighting important issues and voices around women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in the area of economic development. This is the third in our “Be Bold for Change” blog series celebrating the power of women entrepreneurs and their partners around the world.
Catherine Sobrevega (center) in Afghanistan, with her previous MEDA’s project, Through the Garden Gate, in Afghanistan.
I always look forward to International Women’s Day (IWD) as it is celebrated differently in form and structure worldwide. In the Philippines, where I am from, I cannot remember any celebration that I have been part of. I am sure there is an IWD celebration somewhere, but it is mostly celebrated by women’s right activist groups — not by ordinary people or companies. This is likely because men and women treat one another equally. I grew up knowing that there is no difference between us – all of us can go to school, all of us have access to information and opportunities.
To mark International Women’s Day 2017, MEDA is highlighting important issues and voices around women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in the area of economic development. This is the second in our “Be Bold for Change” blog series celebrating the power of women entrepreneurs and their partners around the world.
How do you effectively reach a majority of people to discuss financial inclusion in Nigeria? Mark Akpan, Program Manager Financial Inclusion
Radio is the main source of news and information in Cross Rivers State, Nigeria. During my January 2017 visit to the YouLead project, implemented with Cuso International, Mark Akpan and I had the opportunity to visit Hit FM Cross River State to talk about Access to Finance for youth. We shared our understanding and approach towards addressing gender inequalities in this sector.
To mark International Women’s Day 2017, MEDA is highlighting important issues and voices around women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in the area of economic development.This is the first in our “Be Bold for Change” blog series celebrating the power of women entrepreneurs and their partners around the world.
Woman rice farmer in Myanmar
Climate change looms as a huge factor in poverty alleviation, and thus an issue MEDA is grappling with. It’s something that hits poorest people the hardest, since they have the fewest resources to prepare for and rebuild after climate shocks. The World Bank estimates it will push 100 million additional people into poverty by 2030. The United Nations says climate change is also a potential driver of conflict, a “threat multiplier.” Among its consequences: food riots and unrest triggered by spiraling prices; clashes between farmers over land and water; competing demands on dwindling water supplies for irrigation or for cities.
Learning the ropes to get around the capital Accra has been an interesting and rewarding experience. In a city that only recently started naming its streets, the locals still rely on landmarks, prominent buildings, and well-known spots. There’s something very rewarding about learning the name of an area, like you’re finally getting to know the city and the people. More importantly, it lets you communicate with the taxis and tro-tros.
As the Business Development Intern on the FEATS project in Ghana, I had the opportunity to help an entrepreneur start a cashew aggregation business that will improve the lives of 250+ farmers and the lives of their families and communities. I supported this entrepreneur by developing the business strategy and operational plan to successfully and sustainably start his small business. In the process, I have learned a lot about the farming value chain and the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and farmers in a developing country like Ghana.
Last week I had the opportunity to help MiCrédito welcome a MEDA Field Experience team to Nicaragua. As a MEDA intern, this was a chance to meet MEDA supporters from Canada and the United States, most of whom had never been to Nicaragua before. As I helped to interpret the management team’s presentation to our visitors, I felt proud to be involved in an institution that has had such an important impact on the lives of Nicaraguan micro-entrepreneurs. For me, MiCrédito’s work encapsulates the idea of MEDA’s “Business to the Power of 2” strategy. When the institution sees a need in the community, it uses enlightened business practices and entrepreneurial thinking to help people achieve their personal goals, thus building bridges out of poverty.
"It will never work! People are used to getting handouts – if you're not giving out free things, your project will fail."
This is the message that one of MEDA's project managers was met with when MEDA first proposed working with women farmers in Ghana. Five years later, MEDA's GROW (Greater Rural Opportunities for Women) project has reached over 20,000 women who now have nutritious food throughout the year and larger and improved farms. At our third Women Empowering Women meetings in Lancaster and Souderton, PA, we featured the GROW project and had the opportunity to hear from three MEDA supporters who recently returned from a MEDA Field Experience visit to the project. Joan Nathan, Rita Hoover and Lisa Gautsche said the following after seeing the project firsthand:
After seven months of living in Myanmar, it was finally time to bid farewell. As I looked outside the car window on my lone taxi ride to the airport, a wave of emotion overcame me as I passed dainty teashops and mega shopping centres – the latter of which were only erected during my stay here. There and then, I couldn’t help but feel I was saying goodbye to a person, rather than a place. A person with a vibrant yet humble personality, a disposition full of surprises, and most importantly, potential. If anything, I was saying goodbye to a turbulent teenager budding to adulthood.
One of the projects that I am currently working on here in Nicaragua is a case study of MiCrédito’s social products. In the world of microfinance, these include products that are designed to meet the needs of clients belonging to specific social groups. MiCrédito targets women, youth, and rural communities through three innovative products: Women Entrepreneurship Loans, MiCrédiEstudios (Student Loans), and Sanitation Loans. Women Entrepreneurship loans support women who have a business idea, but not the capital, to build their first business. The MiCrédiEstudios product offers financing for the final two years of university education as well as funding options for youth entrepreneurship, equipment purchase, language courses, and further education through Masters and PhD programs. Finally, through its Sanitation product, MiCrédito provides low-interest loans designed to allow families to replace latrines with high-efficiency toilets, improving family health and hygiene. You can learn more about MiCrédito’s social products here.