MEDA in the News

Spreading the word about GROW

Sarah and Mary at Mile 0Source: "Spreading the word about GROW" by Rachel Bergen for the Canadian Mennonite

Former MEDA interns bike across Canada for Ghanaian women farmers

Mary Fehr just learned to ride a bike a few years ago, when she was 17. Now she and Sarah French are cycling thousands of kilometres across Canada—from Victoria, B.C., to St. John's, Nfld.—to raise money for Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) through its Bike To Grow campaign.

Fehr, 24, attends Leamington United Mennonite Church in Ontario. She met French, 25, in 2013, at an orientation before they embarked on MEDA internships. Fehr was bound for Tanzania, French was headed to Nicaragua. They both worked as impact assessment interns.

Even two years ago, Fehr says French was interested in doing a cross-Canada bike trip so she could see the rest of the country. "She kept talking about it. I kept avoiding the conversation," Fehr jokes.

After their several months abroad, the two decided to embark on the trip together. Almost immediately after the decision was made, they decided to take the opportunity to give back to MEDA and support women entrepreneurs in the process.

"We had both seen different levels of inequality with women during our internships, and how much of a difference MEDA's making. We wanted to give back," Fehr says, adding, "I was really shocked at how much of a difference [MEDA] made."

The women are hoping to raise $150,000 for MEDA's Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) program, a sustainable development program that helps women farmers in Ghana grow more soybeans and forge market links that increase their incomes.

By their first day on the road, the pair were almost a third of the way towards their fundraising goal. All monies raised will be matched nine times by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, meaning that if they reach their goal the total will jump to $1.45 million.

They also want to raise awareness about the work MEDA is doing in the world, and encourage people their age to get involved in projects that create sustainable development.

"Cycling really helps spread the word," French says.

After reaching St. John's, they will then finish their tour off at the MEDA chapter in Leamington, Ont., on Sept. 5. Along the way, they'll stop at the six other MEDA chapters across the country to give presentations on the GROW program and their campaign to support it.

To support the Bike To Grow campaign, and to follow Fehr and French's progress as they bike across Canada, visit www.meda.org/bike-to-grow. To watch a video of the fundraising cyclists, visit http://bit.ly/1LgJd1q

$30m SME investment firm established in East Africa

Source: "$30m SME investment firm established in East Africa" by Tom Jackson on Disrupt Africa

A group of international investors have partnered to establish the US$30 million investment company Business Partners International East Africa (BPI EA), which will provide funding and support for SMEs in a number of sectors in the region.

Risk finance firm Business Partners, the World Bank's investment arm the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Dutch impact investor Stichting DOEN and the Dutch development agency FMO have all put in US$6 million for a 20 per cent share in the company, with the remaining 20 per cent held by the Swiss Investment Fund for Emerging Markets (SIFEM) and Canada-based Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA).

BPI EA aims to encourage entrepreneurship, facilitate job creation and contribute to small enterprise development by providing access to risk capital funding, technical assistance and mentorship to SMEs in East Africa. Value of transactions will range from US$50,000 to US$1 million.

Mark Paper, chief operating officer (COO) of Business Partners International (BPI), said the company has recognised the need to expand into other African countries having been focused on South Africa.

He said there was enormous potential for the new company, especially in targeting family-owned SMEs are a large target audience.

"In a global context Africa is rich in opportunities, yet investment in local business has been constrained and access to finance remains a growth-constraint for many SMEs. SMEs typically fall into a gap between large corporations served by mainstream financiers and micro-enterprises served by microfinance institutions," he said.

Paper said this problem could be particularly acute for family owned businesses, which comprise up to 95 per cent of SMEs in developing countries.

"A large number of family owned SMEs are caught between informal sources of capital and commercial lending tools such as banks and private equity," he said.

"Private equity firms often refrain from lending to these SMEs as they either too small, or prefer not to deal with the complexities of doing business with a family management team rather than a board of members. This is however the area that Business Partners Limited specialises in, and exactly the service offering we are working to expand across Africa."

BPI has established and managed various SME funds in Madagascar, Kenya and Rwanda since it established its presence in Africa in 2004. It raised a similar US$30 million fund for Southern Africa in April of last year, which has so far approved 20 investments to the value of US$6.67 million in SMEs in the region.

"BPI EA will initially focus on investments in East Africa, namely Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, but we foresee that in the short-to-medium term we will include other countries, and will aim to make this new vehicle the way in which all investments are concluded in Africa," said Paper. 

Talking Books expansion in Ghana’s Upper West, benefits women farmers

Women farmers in Ghana librarySource: "Women farmers in Upper West receive support" by Michael Quaye and Agnes O. Amoah on Graphics Online

About 20,000 women farmers in the Upper West Region are benefitting from agricultural extension services and other facilities to improve on food production and reduce poverty.

The project is being funded by the Canadian Government at a cost of $20 million, with support from Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA).

The project involve 662 women's groups of about 30 members each, and cover 190 communities in 11 districts of the region. The six-year project, which is in its third year of implementation, involves the supply of a simple electronic device called the Talking Book to each of the women's groups.

The device contains audio messages recorded by experts in agriculture on soyabean farming, and it is intended to enhance agricultural extension services to the women farmers. The project was piloted last year in 30 communities within the Lambussie-Karni District.

GROW Project

The initiative is under the Greater Rural Opportunity Women (GROW) project in the region which offers information on health and nutrition, gender sensitisation, value chain and marketing for agricultural products, and village loans and savings associations to the beneficiary women.

At a day's sensitisation workshop for lead farmers drawn from Nadowli-Kaleo and Daffiama-Bussie-Issa districts, Mr Andy Bayor, Research and Development/ICT Manager of Literacy Bridge, Ghana, a non-governmental organisation in the Upper West Region, said the successful implementation of a pilot project on the use and relevance of the device had necessitated the expansion to cover the entire region.

He said the device had come to save time for other partners in the project who otherwise would have needed to transport personnel and experts onto the fields to engage farmers.

The project, according to the Programme Coordinator of MEDA, Mr Livinus Balog, was a collaboration between MEDA and Literacy Bridge, with support from key facilitating partners, including ProNet North, Partnership for Rural Development Action (PRUDA), Country Aid for Rural Development (CARD) and Centre for the Alleviation of Poverty, Environment and Child Support.

He said the ratio of one extension officer to about 500 farmers in the region had made it almost impossible for the extension officers to be useful to farmers or effective in their work.

"The device bridges that gap and helps the women farmers to acquire some knowledge that may otherwise never be available to them because of the small number of extension officers around," he said. 

$30m for best ideas

Source: "$30m for best ideas" by John Sambo for the East African Business Week

Five multilateral financial institutions have put together $30 million to lend to selective Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.

Business Partners International East Africa (BPI EA), will provide cash ranging from $50,000 to $1 million. The lending formula has been tested in South Africa and several other African countries including Kenya and Rwanda proving to be an effective way strengthen the SME sector. Business Partners International is a specialised risk capital financier which focuses on funding SMEs that have viable businesses.

However this is the first specific fund for three East African countries together.

Mark Paper, the chief operating officer said last week, "BPI EA will initially focus on investments in East Africa, namely Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, but we foresee that in the short-to-medium term we will include other countries, and will aim to make this new vehicle the way in which all investments are concluded in Africa."

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank Group private lending arm, is leading a consortium composed of four other lenders.

These are the Swiss Investment Fund for Emerging Markets (SIFEM); Dutch impact investor Stichting DOEN and the Dutch Development Agency (FMO). The Canada-based Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA).

Each put up $6 million and has a 20% stake in Business Partners International East Africa.

BPI EA wants to reach out to those enterprise owners whose business is doing well but cannot attract commercial bank attention or small family-owned companies.

Paper said, "Private equity firms often refrain from lending to these SMEs as they either too small, or prefer not to deal with the complexities of doing business with a family management team rather than a board of members. This is however the area that Business Partners Limited specialises in, and exactly the service offering we are working to expand across Africa."

According to a statement, BPI EA aims to encourage entrepreneurship, facilitate job creation and contribute to small enterprise development by providing access to risk capital funding, technical assistance and mentorship to SMEs in East Africa.

"A large number of family owned SMEs are caught between informal sources of capital and commercial lending tools such as banks and private equity," he said.

BPI was established in 2004 as a subsidiary of Business Partners Limited, to apply the investment model refined in South Africa to other African countries. Funds have been established in Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, and Zambia.

The management of the Funds is organised to implement the principles that Business Partners has developed to manage investments in SMEs in Africa over the last 30 years.

BPI manages the Funds and Technical Assistance Facilities through its wholly-owned fund manager subsidiaries in Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, and Zambia.

Along with Business Partners' innovative risk financing instruments and value-add advisory services, Business Partners has developed a delivery model unique from that of traditional private equity funds to serve this segment of family SMEs in selected African countries.

According to a statement, BPI has established and managed various SME funds in Madagascar, Kenya and Rwanda since it established its presence in Africa in 2004. It raised a similar $30 million fund for Southern Africa in April of last year, which has so far approved 20 investments to the value of $6.67 million in SMEs in the region.

 

Riding for women farmers

Cyclists Mary and Sarah Delta OptimistSource: "Riding for female farmers" by Jessica Kerr for the Delta Optimist

Ontario duo passes through South Delta during the early days of a cross-country bike trek


Two women biking their way across the country to raise money to empower female farmers in Africa made a stop in Ladner this week.

Sarah French and Mary Fehr, who both hail from Ontario, started their cross-Canada trek, Bike to Grow, Monday in Victoria. After getting off the ferry in Tsawwassen, the pair rode to Ladner where they spent the evening before heading to Vancouver on Wednesday.

French said they dipped their back tires in the Pacific Ocean in Victoria and they plan to dip their front tires in the Atlantic Ocean when they arrive in St. John's, Newfoundland in September.

French and Fehr are riding to raise funds and awareness for the Mennonite Economic Development Associates' (MEDA) Greater Rural Opportunities for Women Project.

The money raised will help female farmers in Ghana learn better techniques to increase their yields as well as how to explore new ways to make money, such as tending livestock and poultry.

Both women have worked with MEDA in the past and met two years ago at an orientation session in Waterloo, Ontario. After the session they went their separate ways - Fehr was doing impact assessment work in Tanzania, while French was in Nicaragua working in sustainable development and agriculture.

Both said they witnessed great inequalities between men and women and when they returned to Canada, decided they wanted to do something to give back to MEDA.

Fehr, however, wasn't initially on board with the idea of cycling across the country. It was all French's idea.

"It's kind of been a passion of mine to ride across Canada," she said.

"I absolutely did not want to do that," Fehr said with a smile.

Eventually, she came around.

"I thought this could really be a cool way to give back to MEDA and a really cool summer."

The pair began training and planning a year ago, and, with a goal of raising $150,000, set out this week. The pair will ride an average of 100 kilometres a day and has already raised $50,000. Together with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, all contributions will be matched nine times.

Fehr and French will be chronicling their journey online at www.biketogrow.com

DutchCrafters to sponsor MEDA's Bike to GROW

Source: "Business briefs: DutchCrafters sponsor Mennonite fundraiser" by Herald staff and wire reports for the Bradenton Herald

MANATEE – DutchCrafters Amish Furniture is sponsoring part of a bike ride to raise funds for Mennonite Economic Development Associates' GROW program. GROW supports women entrepreneurs in Ghana.

Mary Fehr and Sarah French will bike across Canada to raise $150,000 for Greater Opportunities for Rural Women. GROW assists women in obtaining seeds and other materials needed for success in rural areas. The program plans to reach more than 20,000 women within six years.

DutchCrafters will match up to $5,000 of funds raised.