MEDA in the News

Canada addressing poverty through nutrition

Source: "COLUMN: Addressing poverty through nutrition" by Lois Brown in the Aurora Banner (

We all know of the pivotal role nutrition plays in improving the health of the most vulnerable in developing countries.

Nutrition is at the centre of Canada's top development priority — improving the health of mothers, newborns and children — and will be a key focus of Canada's commitment to this cause from 2015 to 2020.

When women have access to proper nutrition, it improves not only their lives, but also the lives of their families and communities. The ripple effect extends to creating healthier communities and providing a foundation that allows economies to flourish.

Without sustainable economic growth, there will be no lasting solution to poverty.

This is why Canada has long been a champion of improving nutrition.

Nutrition was a key pillar of the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health that Canada launched in 2010 and at the Saving Every Woman, Every Child Summit in Toronto this past May.

With our partners, Canada has made a significant difference in the global fight to improve nutrition. Canada has been a strong supporter of the Scaling Up Nutrition program and we are the largest donor to the Micronutrient Initiative — an organization that works to eliminate vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the world's most vulnerable populations.

The initiative is the largest supplier of vitamin A supplements to developing nations — vitamin A significantly reduces child mortality and blindness.

It is also working to reach the last 30 per cent of households with no access to iodized salt, because iodine is a key micronutrient in the improvement of cognitive function and in the development of healthy brains.

The initiative is a leading supplier of zinc, which reduces the harmful effects of diarrhea; iron, which decreases anemia; and folic acid, which helps people absorb nutrients from the food they eat. This Canadian organization, in partnership with others, has contributed to saving about three million children's lives over the past 15 years.

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank is another Canadian success story.

Combining grain donations from Canadian farmers and financial donations from churches and individuals, as well as project funding from your Canadian government, this organization feeds more than one million people every year.

Leading Canadian agricultural organizations, such as Mennonite Economic Development Associates, the Canadian Hunger Foundation and USC Canada, are all working to improve food security and nutrition by biofortifying crops — adding life-saving micronutrients to family diets.

They are doing this in environmentally sustainable ways — by selecting locally adapted resilient crops that require minimal technology to grow.

We must ensure that nutrition remains a central commitment in Canada's global efforts. I am confident that we can build on lessons learned to improve co-ordination, scale up our efforts and work effectively to save lives around the world. 

Revolutionizing agriculture in Ethiopia: MEDA to assist Dal on $18M development project

Source: "Revolutionizing agriculture in Ethiopia: Dal to lead $18 million development project" by Robyn McCallum on the Dalhousie University website

The ATTSVE teamIn Ethiopia, agriculture isn't just a way of life: in many respects, it's the cornerstone of life itself.

Approximately 80-85 per cent of the country's population is employed in agriculture. The country has the largest livestock population in all of Africa, and agriculture contributes more than 40 per cent of the country's total GDP. But the country is both heavily populated and economically poor. There's widespread food insecurity, limited social support for and acceptance of women, and 30 per cent of the country's 85 million people live on less than $1.25 US a day.

Improving Ethiopia's economy and addressing the poverty of its people both depend a great deal on growth — in all meanings of the word.

For more than 10 years, Dalhousie's Faculty of Agriculture has had strong collaborative partnerships with Ethiopian agricultural institutions, working together to increase the country's agricultural capacity. Now, a new international development project will take those partnerships to a whole other level.

Peter MacKay Solomon Demeke Jimma University College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine and Dal honorary degree recipient and President Florizone chat during the coffee ceremonySupporting Ethiopia's future
On Sunday, the Government of Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development announced a nearly six-year, $18-million project in Ethiopia. Titled "Agricultural Transformation through Stronger Vocational Education" (ATTSVE), the project will be led by Dalhousie with the support of partners the Mennonite Economic Development Associates of Canada (MEDA), Jimma University College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine (JUCAVM) in Ethiopia and McGill University.

ATTSVE, one of the largest international development projects ever awarded to a Canadian university, will focus on enhancing current Ethiopian agricultural education programs available at agricultural colleges. Its goal is to help evolve the country's agricultural practices and education beyond its subsistence-based foundation towards a market-focused system that better supports not only the economic strength of the country and its citizens, but also the unique needs of farmers, rural youth, the agri-industry and the broader rural communities.

The official launch for ATTSVE was held Sunday at the MacRae Library on the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus, timed with the start of International Development Week. Minister Peter MacKay, MP Scott Armstrong, representatives from partner institutions as well as 14 deans and vice-deans from Ethiopia were in attendance.

"Our government is proud to partner with Dalhousie University to help Ethiopian agricultural students to participate in market-led and growth-oriented agriculture, either as producers or employees of commercial agricultural enterprises," said Minister MacKay. "This means increased incomes and better access to food for thousands of families."

Ethiopian doctoral student Bizuayehu Mengiste who led the coffee ceremonyThe event featured a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, an important cultural component for ceremonial and social gatherings in Ethiopia. (Coffee is one of the country's leading crops.) The ceremony is traditionally led by a woman and in this case, was led by Ethiopian doctoral student, Bizuayehu Mengiste, who has, under another project with Ethiopia, studied at the Faculty of Agriculture and Dalhousie's Halifax campuses.

"At Dalhousie University, we aspire to have not only a local impact but a global impact," said Dal President Richard Florizone, speaking at Sunday's announcement event. "This international development project in Ethiopia, one of the largest in Dalhousie University's history and the largest for our Faculty of Agriculture, will allow us to make world-class contributions to a global issue by sharing agricultural expertise to support economic growth and alleviate poverty."

David Gray, dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, explained that the project will bring benefits on many levels: building capacity for agricultural training and education in Ethiopia with Dal's partner colleges, bringing knowledge and experiences of Ethiopian agriculture to students at Dal, increasing potential research collaboration opportunities, and more.

"If we are to be successful and meet our mandate and responsibilities as the Faculty of Agriculture, it is crucial that we engage internationally," said Dr. Gray, noting that capacity building on an international scale is a key component of the Faculty of Agriculture's strategic plan. "We are so pleased to be part of this historic project which will, quite literally, change the approach to agricultural education, not only in Ethiopia but across the world."

Farming for the future
Currently, most agriculture technical and vocational training colleges in Ethiopia are located in rural areas and focus largely on competency-based approaches and outcomes. What they're increasingly interested in, though, is programming that emphasizes rural growth through agriculture. They recognize that more emphasis is needed on marketing and entrepreneurship, as well as curriculum development and content delivery.

The primary goal of ATTSVE is to increase the supply of male and female graduates from these institutions who have the necessary skills and knowledge not just to become successful farmers, but to develop the commercial agriculture sector in Ethiopia. The Faculty of Agriculture and other implementing partners will use their expertise in applied learning models to support Ethiopian instructors in delivering education programs aligned with the country's national priorities.

As the project lead, the Faculty of Agriculture will be involved in institutional planning and leadership, curriculum development/revision and project financial management. Jimma University College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine (JUCAVM) in Ethiopia will play a central role in applied research, increasing cooperative links with industry and information technology enhancement at the Ethiopian schools. The Mennonite Economic Development Associates of Canada (MEDA) will be primarily involved in business management training, entrepreneurship and value chain development. McGill University will be heavily involved in inclusivity and gender equality matters.

Increasing opportunities
The project will result in increased instructor training, more opportunities for institutional networking and partnerships and increased capacity at the colleges in a variety of areas, leading the graduates who will take part in entrepreneurship and market development initiatives.

"ATTSVE will give youth the opportunity to train in a new way," said Suzanne Johnson, ATTSVE project director at the Faculty of Agriculture.

The Agricultural Transformation through Stronger Vocational Education project will focus on four colleges: Maichew (Tigray region) Nejo (Oromia), Woreta (Amhara region) and Wolaita Soddo (SNNPR). Not only will they share knowledge gained through the project with one another, but they'll also help translate initiatives to other institutions in Ethiopia.

"The ATTSVE project is very important and will enhance the capacity of agricultural technical and vocational education training institutions to be responsive and reactive to the emerging labour market," says Professor Solomon Demeke of Jimma University College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine in Ethiopia. Dr. Demeke received an honorary Doctorate from Dalhousie University in 2014.

Environmental sustainability, in terms of both best practices in natural resource management and institutional environmental plans, will continue to be part of the new project, along with gender equality. The latter, in particular, will be a key part of the Faculty of Agriculture's work as it aims to increase the number of rural women farmers in Ethiopia.

"Agriculture is a global industry, and we are a global community," said Dean Gray. "Projects like this bring us together to face our challenges together."

Minister Paradis highlights MEDA and Sarona impact investing partnership at World Economic Forum

Impact Investing in Frontier Markets

When we think of global health security, we cannot look at it as a single issue.

I believe we have to look at the entire well-being of the individual.

There is a strong link between health and economics.

People need access to health services in order to lead productive lives.

And they need to work to afford these services and contribute to the economic well-being of their families and communities.

That is why Canada is working with Sarona Asset Management to mobilize private sector funds and deploy them to grow small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, in emerging markets.

SMEs create two out of every three jobs in emerging markets.

They foster innovation and provide important goods and services to enable people to lead healthy and productive lives.

However, in order for SMEs to grow, they need access to technology.

They need links to markets.

And they need access to capital.

This last point is particularly important.

Financing needs are high.

The value of the gap in credit financing for informal and formal SMEs in developing economies is over $2 trillion.

This initiative helps donors connect international and local investors with SMEs through intermediaries.

And it deploys investments in a way that helps to strengthen the local financial sector.

For example, Sarona invests through local private equity funds.

Through its partnership with the Mennonite Economic Development Associates, it also matches 20 experienced North American private equity managers as mentors with managers in frontier and emerging markets.

To read Minister Paradis' full keynote address, click here.


Dalhousie's Bible Hill agricultural campus joins Ethiopian project

Source: "Bible Hill agricultural campus joins Ethiopian project" by Aaron Beswick Truro Bureau in the Herald News

Bible Hill is teaming up with Ethiopia.

Well, it's actually a bit more complicated than that.

Dalhousie University's agricultural campus in Bible Hill will be administering an $18-million program funded by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada to improve agricultural education in Ethiopia.

The program, called Agricultural Transformation Through Stronger Vocational Education, touts itself as one of the first steps in moving Ethiopia's farming community from a subsistence one to a market economy.

"A better trained farming community is our main goal," Solomon Demeke, a professor at Ethiopia's Jimma University College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, said Monday.

But to get a better trained farming community, Ethiopia first needs better agricultural and technical colleges.

That is where Bible Hill comes in.

Along with funding directed toward the physical infrastructure of four Ethiopian agricultural and technical colleges, the program will also be about teaching the teachers.

"So it will be about institutional strengthening, improving instructor training, networking and linkages between the colleges and the private sector," project co-ordinator Hannah Pugh said Monday.

Agricultural campus experts, along with those from McGill University in Montreal and the Mennonite Economic Development Associates of Canada in Waterloo, will travel to Ethiopia to provide training.

"This is a partnership approach and there (are) also opportunities for Ethiopians to come to Canada," said Pugh.

"So we hope to learn as much from them as they do from us."

This is the biggest international project the agricultural campus has ever been in charge of. 

Canada Continues to Support Agricultural Development in Ethiopia

Source: "Canada Continues to Support Agricultural Development in Ethiopia" on the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada website

Minister MacKay and MP Armstrong announce two projects that will help boost farmers' productivity and resilience

February 1, 2015 - Truro, Nova Scotia - Today, on behalf of the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and Scott Armstrong, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development and Member of Parliament for Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, participated in an event at Dalhousie University to highlight Canada's continued support for agriculture in Ethiopia.

The event brought together university partners and the student community. Minister MacKay and MP Armstrong took the opportunity to mark the launch of the 25th annual International Development Week by announcing Canada's contribution to two new projects focusing on agriculture and irrigation training, implemented respectively by Dalhousie University and by Agriteam Canada.

"Our government is proud to partner with Dalhousie University to help Ethiopian agricultural students to participate in market-led and growth-oriented agriculture, either as producers or employees of commercial agricultural enterprises," said Minister MacKay. "This means increased incomes and better access to food for thousands of families."

Although major gains have been made in the past decade, Ethiopia still faces chronic food insecurity.

"Canada is recognized in Ethiopia for its leadership in nutrition and its expertise in agricultural development," said MP Armstrong. "Helping farmers boost their productivity, both through training and irrigation initiatives, helps communities become more resilient to droughts and other difficulties. Increasing the quality and variety of nutrients that farmers produce ensures a balanced and quality diet. By increasing the amount of food grown, and improving the food value chain, we also ensure sustainable economic growth. These efforts are central to poverty reduction."

"At Dalhousie University we aspire to have not only a local impact but also a global impact," said Richard Florizone, President of Dalhousie University. "This international development project in Ethiopia, one of the largest in Dalhousie University's history and the largest for the Faculty of Agriculture, will enable us to make world-class contributions to a global issue by sharing agricultural expertise to support economic growth and alleviate poverty."

"Canada has been working with development partners in Ethiopia for several decades, and these partnerships have proven efficient in achieving real results in improving food security and reducing poverty," added Minister Paradis. "Canada engages with accountable, effective development actors, such as Agriteam Canada, Dalhousie University and Mennonite Economic Development Associates, that can best deliver results."

Ethiopia's economy predominantly depends on traditional subsistence agriculture, which supports more than 83 percent of the population. Ethiopia is highly reliant on rain-fed agriculture, and its high potential for irrigation is only beginning to be developed.

Quick Facts
  • The year 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Canada-Ethiopia diplomatic relations.
  • Canada is an important contributor to the 2012 G-8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition and a key partner in fostering sustainable agricultural development in Africa. The goals of the New Alliance are to increase responsible domestic and foreign private investments in African agriculture, take innovations that can enhance agricultural productivity to scale and reduce the risk borne by vulnerable economies and communities.
  • Since the Muskoka Initiative in 2010, Ethiopia has been one of the countries where Canada is focusing its efforts to improve maternal, newborn and child health, including through improved nutrition.
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Fortifying cooking oil for children's health

Source: "Fortifying cooking oil for children's health" in the University of Waterloo's Daily Bulletin

More than half a million children under the age of five have died in Tanzania in the past decade as a result of inadequate nutrition, but a new joint project with some Waterloo roots will increase access to one important micronutrient and potentially save lives.

Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), the University of Waterloo, and Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania just launched a two-and-a-half-year project aimed at reducing vitamin A deficiency using fortified foods.

1217Sunflower"This initiative works with local processors to crush locally grown sunflower seed and produce vitamin A sunflower oil to address local micronutrient deficiencies," said Thom Dixon, director, business of health at MEDA, and one of the project's principal investigators.

In Tanzania, about a third of all children under the age of five and women under age 50 suffer from vitamin A deficiency.

"In many rural areas, diets are lacking in basic micronutrients needed to build strong immune systems and fight disease, and vitamin A is a particular challenge in selected regions of our country," said Professor Theobald Mosha, professor of human nutrition and public health, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Sokoine University of Agriculture, and one of the principal investigators. 

To promote the new fortified oil, an innovative electronic voucher developed in Canada will deliver subsidies to people in targeted communities and help foster demand.

"This project is expected to increase food security and encourage local economic growth by using a locally produced crop, processed at local businesses, and sold in local retailers," said Professor Susan Horton, CIGI chair in global health economics, University of Waterloo and the third principal investigator of the project.

The project supports the Tanzanian government’s national food fortification campaign, launched in 2013 to increase access to these enhanced foods. Canada’s International Development Research Centre and Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada funded this initiative under the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund.