MEDA in the News

Minister Paradis promotes private sector-led economic growth and civil society engagement in Mexico

Source: "Minister Paradis promotes private sector-led economic growth and civil society engagement in Mexico" from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) website on the News Releases 2014 section.

Canada leads global efforts to strengthen private sector and civil society involvement to eradicate poverty

April 17, 2014 - Mexico City, Mexico - Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

The Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, attended the first High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation in Mexico City. The meeting brought together Canada and other donors, developing countries, as well as private sector and civil society organizations in a common effort to maximize the impact of international development investments.

"Canada delivers concrete development results through effective partnerships," said Minister Paradis. "We are proud to partner with civil society organizations to achieve our common goals, particularly when it comes to saving the lives of women and children. We are also working closely with the private sector to create jobs, mobilize private investment, and unlock innovative solutions to development challenges to ensure we can break the cycle of poverty."

As a reflection of Canada's commitment in these areas, Minister Paradis announced Canada's support for two projects that will leverage private investment to create jobs and establish an environment wherein civil society organizations can play a more effective role in addressing international development priorities:
  • the Civil Society Organization Partnership for Development Effectiveness will help develop the capacity and effectiveness of civil society organizations in more than 50 countries.
  • through the Impact Investment in Frontier Markets project, Canada will help reduce poverty by supporting the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, which play a vital role in creating jobs and generating wealth in developing-country markets.
On the margins of the High-Level meeting, Minister Paradis hosted round tables and meetings aimed at increasing the involvement of Canadian businesses and civil society organizations in international development, particularly in support of key development priorities such as maternal, newborn and child health, child protection, and sustainable economic growth.

Canada has made clear and concrete commitments that have supported positive development outcomes, including in health, food security and sustainable economic growth. We have achieved results by working with our partners in government, the private sector and civil society, to create a truly global partnership for effective development cooperation.

Canada remains committed to doing its part to help the poorest make the transition from poverty to prosperity.

We look forward to the upcoming UN-led discussions on the post-2015 development agenda — an agenda that Canada believes should have poverty eradication at its core, and focus on improving the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable people in developing countries, especially women and children.

Canada supports projects to leverage private sector

Source: "Canada supports projects to leverage private sector and civil society resources" from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) website on the News Releases 2014 section.

Canada is committed to helping developing countries mobilize the resources and expertise of businesses and civil society organizations to create jobs, growth, and shared prosperity and maximize the impact of international development investments.

Canada is providing support to new projects aimed at stimulating private sector-led development and increasing the effectiveness of civil society organizations:

Impact Investment in Frontier Markets project ($19.95 million over five years)

This project is a collaboration among the Mennonite Economic Development Associates of Canada (MEDA), Sarona Asset Management, and the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing.

Canada's maximum contribution is $19.95 million. Of this amount, $15 million will be used for investment purposes, and $4.75 million will pay for MEDA's technical assistance and management costs, and the remaining 200 thousand are for project monitoring and evaluation.

This project aims to reduce poverty by supporting the development of small and medium enterprises, which play a vital role in creating jobs and generating wealth in developing-country markets. It supports the launch of a 15-year investment fund that leverages private equity investment to help small and medium enterprises in developing countries grow, thereby creating at least 15,000 new jobs.

Regular lives pursued in Ukraine

Source: "Regular Lives" pursued in Ukraine" by Tim Huber in the Mennonite World Review

Crimea and Molotschna host North American Mennonite presence

Aliyah PSAs political and economic instability ripples across parts of Ukraine, Mennonite agencies — sometimes in communities once home to North and South American Mennonites' ancestors — are working to help people pursue peaceful and fruitful lives.

Months of protests against the Moscow-supported government of President Viktor Yanukovych escalated into street violence in February, and Yanukovych fled to Russia when a new government supported by the U.S. and Western Europe took power in Kiev.

In response, the Russian navy took control of Crimean ports March 3, and thousands of Russian soldiers moved into Crimea, which is predominantly the home of ethnic Russians.

Mennonite Centre

The Ukrainian/Russian ethnic divides that grab headlines are being addressed by the Canadian-sponsored Mennonite Centre in Ukraine, located in what is now the mostly pro-Russian village of Molochansk north of Crimea and south of Zaporozhye.

"I shouldn't say it is a challenge, but we are very aware that there is a difference," said Ben Stobbe of Victoria, B.C., chair of Friends of the Mennonite Center in Ukraine. "But we have staff from both sides at the center and you wouldn't know a difference unless you ask them.

"We aren't going to focus on the past. We will help anyone — Russian or Ukrainian. We're trying to model that, trying to work together."

Founded in 2001 in a renovated girl's school built in the early 1900s, the Mennonite Centre offers humanitarian services to people living in a cluster of villages in what was formerly the Molotschna Mennonite settlement.

"It's very organic," he said. "They come up with the ideas, and we review them and do about 100 little projects a year. We have the community center, we have meals twice a week, we run medical clinics, a mom's support group."

The center distributes medicine, offers camps for kids and assists with medical bills and fuel costs, which can rapidly spike if Russia cuts off the flow of gas products.

"A pension in Ukraine is about $150 per month, but all this imported gasoline is the same price you pay in the U.S. and Canada," said Mennonite Centre director Dema Bratchenko. "A cataract surgery is about $600 for one eye... . There are some old people who can't afford to buy coal and just burn whatever they have, so we have a program where we provide bedridden people with coal. We are trying to fill the needs."

Bratchenko said that even though unrest has not spread to Molochansk, there is a feeling in the air that something big is going on.

"We don't have the army here, but it's pretty demoralizing to know we are on the edge of terrible things that could happen," he said. "That is very, very depressing."

Stobbe noted an underlying fear has developed.

"The word 'mobilization' has made people fearful. That is serious," he said. "I had a conversation with a young man who said, 'Boy oh boy, do I have to pick up arms?'

"I think the young people have identified war as something of the past. Their parents talked about patriotic war, but they haven't seen that in their communities or their times."

The center's approach is to simply function as it always has.

"We give out medicine, we help people, we pay all the bills for doctor visits, we give grants. Yesterday we sponsored a group of people who went to a local sports competition," Bratchenko said.

" ... In the middle of these frightful things we try to live regular lives."


Alexander PSMennonite Economic Development Associates operated a horticulture development project from 2008 to 2013 in the Crimean peninsula and Zaporozhye region of southeastern Ukraine. It continues a presence as majority shareholder in a separate agricultural leasing business.

MEDA President Allen Sauder said Agro Capital Management — which offers financing to farmers for things like tillage and irrigation equipment and greenhouses — has a staff of about half a dozen, including one American.

"It is of course continuing," he said. "Events in the last week or so have significantly affected the business environment. The business is still open, and the staff are safe."

The project has assisted 6,500 farmers, 35 percent of whom are women, to increase farm income by 75 percent annually. MEDA has been in discussions to pursue a second phase, expanding both in the southeast and other parts of the country, but the economic tailspin that has accompanied the political upheaval has put progress on hold.

Sauder said MEDA didn't pursue Crimean development because of its role in Mennonite history.

"As the project unfolded, we were aware of the Mennonite areas, but they are also some of the neediest areas," he said, noting Agro Capital Management works with all ethnic backgrounds, including the somewhat persecuted Tatar community. "I had heard the stories of Mennonite success in farming there.

"It was almost appalling how the land was tended. Farmers had potential, but it just wasn't being used. That's why we had such success; because the potential was there."

Mennonite Central Committee reports its 10 partners in Ukraine continue their work in spite of protests and military actions. MCC continues to monitor the situation and — like the other organizations — asks for prayers for the people of Ukraine.

Top Photo: Aliyah, a client from MEDA's Ukraine Horticulture Development Project, stands in her greenhouse in Crimea at the end of 2012. She received a grant to start a grape vineyard and purchased a strawberry package to grow them alongside the grapes. — Photo by MEDA

Bottom Photo: Alexander, a client from MEDA's Ukraine Horticulture Development Project, stands in Zaporozhye in early 2013. He found buyers for his produce and received a low-interest loan to build a greenhouse. — Photo by MEDA