MEDA in the News

Ghana's House of Chiefs pledge to assist women access land for agriculture

Naba Sigri BewongSource: "House of Chiefs pledge to assist women access land for agriculture" in myjoyonline.com

The President of the Upper East Regional House of Chiefs has called on government to support smallholder farmers to increase their productivity and income by improving the provision of agricultural extension services, irrigation services and subsidized fertilizer under the Fertilizer Subsidy Programme.

Naba Sigri Bewong was speaking at a dialogue session organized by SEND-Ghana with funding by Oxfam in Ghana which was attended by chiefs, small holder farmers and Civil Society organization in the Region.

He acknowledged that women's engagement in the agricultural sector of Ghana has come under constrained circumstances in spite of the fact that, they are responsible for up to 80% of food production.

These constraints he mentioned come from different sources broadly categorized under policy and institutional challenges as well as constraints with regards to culture and intra-household power relations and access to services.

The President of the Upper East Regional House of Chiefs pledged his support to help increase women's access to land for agriculture purposes and called on chiefs in the region to address existing challenges to women's access to agricultural lands.

Speaking at the meeting, Daniel Adotey, a Programme Officer of SEND–Ghana explained that, for us at SEND-Ghana, one of our priority working areas is to help smallholder farmers including women farmers to access all the things they need in the farming and we believe that when you support women farmer she will work get money and bring some home to take care of the children.

But we have observed that, there are some critical challenges facing smallholder farmers in this country including this region. They include access to fertilizer, access to Extension Services and more importantly access to land for farming.

All except land lies in the bosom of government. It is the Chiefs who are the custodians of the land lies in the domain of Traditional Authorities.

We have advocated for government to continue with subsidized fertilizer programme and by April of this year according to government, the subsidized fertilizer will be released.

We believe that, we have to work with the Traditional Authorities to see the need to help women to get land to till in order to earn some income to feed their families.

Our meeting therefore is to plead with Naba Sigri Bewong to work with his colleague Traditional leaders to help our women to get land for long term for the purpose of Agriculture.

Naba Sigri assured the gathering that, Sakote Traditional area has no problem releasing land for women for Agriculture purpose and therefore the issue is not a challenge. He however added that, he cannot vouch for the other Traditional areas and therefore gave the assurance that, he will convey the message to his other 17 colleague Paramount Chiefs.

He cited the Widows and Orphans Movement which is already benefitting from large land release for their 250 tree mango farm plantations in Sakote that will begin producing fruit in the next few years.

"If women want to expand their farm, there is an opportunity for them," he assured.

Monica Afana, a widow with two children complained of being robbed of her land as a result of her husband's death. According to her, about half of her farmland was forcefully taken from her by her deceased husband's elder brother.

"This has brought untold hardship on me and my children because we have to manage with the half that we have," she lamented.

The dialogue session is one of the strategic activities under the Grow Campaign in Ghana with the aim of increasing spaces for enhanced accountability and political commitment to guarantee land tenure security for women and other small-scale farmers in the face of 'land grabbing' and other land security issues in Ghana. 

Biking across Canada to empower Ghanian women

Road bikerSource: "Biking across Canada to empower Ghanian women (VIDEO)" in Christian Week (Photo Soumei Baba (Flickr CC))

Former MEDA interns helping women get out of poverty


Sarah French and Mary Fehr were hugely impacted during their time in Nicaragua and Tanzania working with MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates) and their efforts helping women live healthier lives. Now they want to make an impact themselves. Together they embark on a four-month bike ride across Canada to raise $150, 000 for MEDA's Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) project in Ghana.

"The GROW project is assisting 20,000 women farmers and their families to sustainably emerge from poverty," French says in a release. "Mary and I wanted to support a project that focused on women because we saw the gender inequalities while on our own internships. It couldn't be more symbolic: Two women cycling across Canada representing independent, self-sufficient women."

Bike to GROW will begin May 18 in Victoria, BC and conclude September 5 in Leamington, ON. On the way, Sarah and Mary will stop at MEDA chapters, churches and community centres to speak with locals about MEDA, the GROW project and their experience.

"These women (in Ghana) work hard and persevere every day to provide for their families. You can see their smiles when they learn new things, produce a good harvest and have income because of our support," says GROW country project manager Catherine Sobrevega. "It's exciting to know their life-changing stories are going to be shared across Canada. Our team will include both of them in our prayers. May they remain strong and safe throughout this memorable journey for GROW."

GROW – Greater Rural Opportunities for Women from MEDA on Vimeo.

GROW is helping women soybean farmers in Northern Ghana increase agricultural production, strengthen their links to markets, diversify the food they produce and understand more about nutrition. Funded by Global Affairs Canada (GAC), this six-year project will improve the incomes and food security of 20,000 women and their families.

Canada-Israel Relationship Extends to Development in Ukraine

Source: "Canada-Israel Relationship Extends to Development in Ukraine" on the Israel Diplomatic Network Embassy of Israel in Canada

ukraine canada mashav agreementLast month in Kiev, on February 25th, Israel signed a Memorandum of Understanding to support a Canadian funded agriculture project in Ukraine. The signing was witnessed by Ukraine's Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food, Mr. Oleksiy Pavlenko. Working together, the governments of Canada and Israel will assist farmers and small and medium entrepreneurs in the framework of the "Ukraine Horticulture Business Development Project (UHBDP)."

The project is implemented by MEDA - Mennonite Economic Development Associates of Canada with funding from the Government of Canada and the Israeli Agency for International Development Cooperation - Mashav. The beneficiary of the project is Ukraine's Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

"Canada is steadfast in its commitment to helping advance democracy, strengthen human rights and support sustainable economic growth in Ukraine," said the Honourable Christian Paradis, Canadian Minister of International Development and La Francophonie. "Our support for this project, in collaboration with the Government of Israel, will help Ukrainian farmers and small and medium-sized businesses move from poverty to prosperity."

Rafael Barak, Israel's Ambassador to Canada, reflected upon its significance to Canada-Israel bilateral ties: "this agreement is another example of how Canada and Israel can leverage mutual expertise to help make the world a better place." He added, "international development is one of the key areas of cooperation—in addition to energy, security, scientific research and academic ties—that were highlighted in the Canada-Israel Strategic Partnership MOU signed last year during Prime Minister Harper's historic visit to Israel."

The project involves sharing experiences in growing, storage and marketing of agricultural products as well as teaching best practices in the implementation of new technologies in the agricultural industry. An important element of the new project is technical assistance and training programs for gardening professionals. Special attention is paid to female farmers and small entrepreneurs who face challenges to the technical development of their businesses due to a lack of funds.

The Project covers small and medium farming entrepreneurs in four regions of Ukraine—Zaporizhya, Mikolayev, Odessa, Kherson—and includes:

  • Provision of equipment, training, both practical and methodological assistance in establishing effective farming for farmers and households (involving Israeli and Canadian experts).
  • Establishment of credit and facilitate access of farmers to finance in order to allow greater opportunities for investment.
  • Assist local agricultural education institutions in the development of new courses on efficient and environmentally sustainable management of small farms Horticulture Development.
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For Media Inquiries:
Howard Fremeth
Director of Communications
(mobile) 613-324-0400
press@ottawa.mfa.gov.il

BACKGROUND
From 2008 to 2012, the Government of Canada has invested $10.3 million in Projects of Horticulture Development and in 5,000 small farming projects in Ukraine to improve the competitiveness of agricultural products. In 2011, the State of Israel, through its Ministry of Agriculture, jointly supported the implementation of this project with the provision of Israeli technicians to train Ukrainian farmers in the latest manufacturing technologies. The first project of cooperation between Canada, Israel and Ukraine in the field of promotion of small and medium farmers was completed in 2013.

In 2012, the governments of Canada and Israel signed a memorandum for cooperation in international development. According to this memorandum, GAC (Canada) and MASHAV (Israel) shall execute joint projects, particularly in Ukraine. One of the priority areas for the cooperation is food security.

Based on the successful results of previous cooperation, Canada is funding the second phase of the "Ukraine Horticulture Business Development Project (UHBDP)" to further promote small and medium enterprises. The current project budget is $19,325,000 and covers a period from 2014 to 2021. It is expected that the project will assist over 30,000 farmers from the four most significant regions of Ukraine that deal with fruit and vegetable production: Kherson, Zaporizhzhya, Mykolayiv and Odessa.

An important element of the new project is technical assistance and training programs for gardening professionals. Special attention is paid to female farmers and small entrepreneurs who cannot reach the technical development of their businesses due to a lack of funds.

MASHAV shall provide training for professionals and small and medium businesses, and also cooperates with agricultural educational institutions in Ukraine. In addition, MASHAV will provide advisory services to financial institutions to expand the support structures and development.

Southwestern Ontario's peopleCare receives prestigious award

peopleCare Brent Gingerich and Elaine ShantzSource: "Southwestern Ontario's peopleCare receives prestigious award" from peopleCare

For second year company is recognized as one of Delloitte's 50 best managed

KITCHENER, ON, April 10, 2015 /CNW/ - For the second consecutive year, Kitchener's peopleCare has been recognized as one of Delloitte's prestigious Canada's 50 Best Managed Companies. This award recognizes outstanding business performance and innovative management practices.

"For over 40 years, peopleCare's success has been founded in four key principles, hiring the right people, building a reputation of excellence, efficient use of resources, meeting and exceeding expectations," said Brent Gingerich, President and Chief Executive Officer, peopleCare. "There is no question that senior care is playing an increasing important role in society. As a third generation organization, we are proud of our history and future providing this service to the people and families of Southwestern Ontario."

peopleCare's front line team is comprised of over 700 professionals who focus on providing care to residents in homes in Tavistock, Cambridge, London, Kitchener, Stratford and Delhi. Currently peopleCare is in the process of designing a new retirement home in London that will provide a multitude of options ranging from independent living to assisted care.

"For us, peopleCare is not just a name, it is what we do. We care for and about people; residents, front line team members and the community in which we work and live," said Elaine Shantz, Chief Operating Officer. "We focus on providing much needed services to our residents by engaging our employees and developing leaders for peopleCare and the broader long term care sector."

peopleCare's commitment to long term care was recognized this year through the introduction of an innovative employee engagement model, "Closing the Loop". "The model empowers all employees to lead a project or introduce an idea where-ever they are in the organization," commented Elaine. "The front line team is given the freedom to use their expertise to enhance quality of life one resident at a time."

In addition, the organization recently sent a team to Ghana, as part of peopleCare's Beyond Ourselves initiative. Supporting a women's GROW project as a partnership with Mennonite Economic Development Associates, peopleCare raised over $40,000 (matched 9 times by the Canadian government). Participating in the trip, Brent stated, "It was hard to know who benefited the most the women in Ghana or our team. Clearly the leadership lessons we learned standing in a soybean field in Ghana apply right here at home."

For further information: Karen Gordon, Squeaky Wheel Communications Inc., 416-997-9478, karen@squeakywheel.biz 

Every Day People in concert to support MEDA's Bike to GROW

B2G April 17 EventSource: "Every Day People In Concert On Sunny Slope Farm" on the Sunny Slope Farm website

On Sunny Slope Farm, a renowned event venue located in the Shenandoah Valley, will host a fundraiser for MEDA—Mennonite Economic Development Associates. The event, which will be open to the public and take place on Friday April 17th from 5 – 10 p.m., will feature music, beer and wine tastings, door prizes and food trucks. Proceeds from the festival will support women farmers and entrepreneurs in Ghana through MEDA's "Bike to GROW" volunteer initiative.

"MEDA is a great organization doing amazing things in the world," says Harry Jarrett, owner of On Sunny Slope Farm. "I'm happy to help spread the word about the important work MEDA does to create business solutions to poverty."

Jarrett founded On Sunny Slope Farm in 2013 and has since been featured as a recipient of the 2015 Couples' Choice Award by WeddingWire.com. A native of the Valley, Jarrett is a passionate supporter of MEDA's mission and values. "Harry has a huge heart for others and an entrepreneurial spirit that really sets him apart. We are thrilled that Harry has offered his venue to help us further our mission," says Ethan Eshbach, coordinator of engagement initiatives at MEDA. "This event will be a blast; it's an awesome opportunity to have fun and help others at the same time."

Ticket options for the event range from $15-$30 and are available at onsunnyslopefarm.com/events. Tickets include a meal and a raffle ticket. Alcoholic beverage tickets are optional.

About Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA)
MEDA is an international economic development organization whose mission is to create business solutions to poverty. Founded in 1953 by a group of Mennonite business professionals, we partner with the poor to start or grow small and medium-sized businesses in developing regions around the world. Our expertise includes a full range of economic development tools: financial services, improved technology, business training, better access to markets and equity investment. Our work most often focuses on women, youth and the rural poor. We believe that all people deserve the opportunity to earn a livelihood and that unleashing entrepreneurship is a powerful way to alleviate poverty.

About Bike to GROW
Sarah French and Mary Fehr are former MEDA interns from Canada. After their internship experiences in Nicaragua and Tanzania, Sarah and Mary felt compelled to support the work of MEDA, and specifically MEDA's work with women entrepreneurs. That's why in summer 2015, Sarah and Mary will bike across Canada—a distance of 8,710 km—to raise $150,000 for women in Ghana through MEDA's GROW project. Their journey, entitled Bike to GROW, represents the struggles that women in developing nations experience on a daily basis. 

MicroVest keeps capital flowing to micro-entrepreneurs

MicroVest ClientSource: "This Firm Keeps Capital Flowing to Micro-Entrepreneurs" by Jessica Pothering on the Entrepreneur

The global financial crisis didn't dent the demand for loans from small businesses and micro-entrepreneurs around the world. But it sure whacked the supply of capital available to lend to them.

MicroVest, a Bethesda, Md.-based for-profit asset management firm owned by three non-profit organizations, treated the challenge as an opportunity to re-engineer its financial offering so it could continue to make debt capital available to microfinance institutions in 66 developing-world countries.

Since September 2010, its new fund has raised $74 million and, by MicroVest's count, has impacted more than 3.5 million people in the developing world who have been served by the banks MicroVest lends to. More than half of the borrowers are women. All told, MicroVest has nearly $300 million under management.

"Investing in under-banked markets is the best way to reduce poverty on a global scale," says Gil Crawford, MicroVest's CEO and a strong proponent of a commercially-minded approach to social impact.

"The financial organizations we invest in share our belief that this is the best way to promote financial inclusion and empower the productive poor," Crawford adds.

Investors had been skeptical of MicroVest's first fund when it launched in 2003. Microfinance was not yet an established investment category. Some investors were confused by the hybrid debt-equity structure. "Investors want you to fit into one bucket or another," says David Wedick, MicroVest's director of strategic operations and business development.

At the time, MicroVest's chairman, Bowman Cutter, told The Wall Street Journal that raising MicroVest's first $15 million was more difficult than the last $15 billion he helped raise for private equity firm Warburg Pincus.

MicroVest's record helped show that institutions that lend to small- and micro-enterprises can be a solid financial bet. That first fund achieved mid-single digit returns for its investors and gave MicroVest a customer list of credit-worthy financial institutions with an ongoing demand for capital that MicroVest could continue to supply.

Microvest is largely owned by the relief agency CARE, the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) and the Cordes Foundation, established by Ron Cordes and his wife, Marty. Other investors include the Omidyar Network, the Clara Fund and the KL Felicitas Foundation.

"We believe we deliver strong returns in this sector not despite but because of our focus on social impact," says Cordes, a founder of AssetMark Investment Services. "The financial institutions that deliver the best long-term performance are the ones who are focused on delivering products and services that empower their clients to live better, more productive lives."

That impact focus drove MicroVest to find a way to attract new kinds of investors. Some institutions and individuals were on board to support microfinance, but needed additional liquidity, the ability to withdraw their money more easily than MicroVest's traditional fund structure would allow. In MicroVest's "perpetual life fund" investors need not commit their capital for years at a time; they can pretty much come and go as they please. (MicroVest marks the value of the fund on a monthly basis.) The Calvert Foundation contributed a key slug of the $7 million to launch the perpetual life fund in 2010.

"We and other similar investors are attracted to perpetual life offerings as they provide us with flexibility in the management of our capital -- both to make additional investments as capital is available and to take distributions as well," Cordes says.

Increased liquidity effectively lowers risk and thus boosts MicroVest's risk-adjusted returns. MicroVest is now expanding beyond its early impact investors who had accepted higher risk as MicroVest built its track record. Crawford is seeking to attract traditional institutional investors and wealth managers focused solely on risk, return and liquidity. Many investors still equate social metrics with charity. Yet more than dozen financial advisory firms have approved MicroVest's funds on behalf of their clients.

"We have earned our place at the table," Crawford writes in a report on MicroVest's plans for the next 10 years. "We are asking impact-agnostic investors to tell us why our funds don't fit in their current portfolios."

Impacts

Financial
MicroVest has raised five funds since its launch in 2003 and has grown to nearly $300 million in assets under management. Its first fund, Microvest I, achieved financial returns in the mid-single digits.

Social
Capital from MicroVest's perpetual life fund has reached more than 3.5 million people, through the financial institutions to which MicroVest lends. Over half of the borrowers are women.

Produced by ImpactAlpha and the Case Foundation.

One of a series of impact profiles produced in conjunction with the Case Foundation's new publication, "A Short Guide to Impact Investing."