MEDA in the News

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.

Picton’s Sarah French will get wheels turning for women of Ghana

Source: "Picton's Sarah French will get wheels turning for women of Ghana" on countylive.ca

Sarah French with Ingemann in NicaraguaSarah French plans to get the wheels turning on a project to help "GROW" opportunities for rural women.

French spent seven months in Nicaragua as an intern last year to work with farmers on sustainable development projects and witnessed the toll of poverty on its citizens, especially women.

As a student at PECI, she was accepted to live in Argentina as a Rotary exchange student in 2007/2008 and that is where the passion for travel and new cultures began. During her International Relations studies at Carleton University, she went to Spain in 2011/2012 as an exchange student.

"But it was in Nicaragua I really got to see poverty for the first time, first-hand," said French. "I was travelling to remote areas and interviewing farmers who were in the MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates) project to see the influence the program had on them. I also rented a room from a very poor Nicaraguan family. I was personally touched by the issues they face."

MEDA, she says is a passionate organization and she wanted to "give back".

Sara French and Mary FehrShe and a friend plan to get on their bicycles in May and take an 8,710 km trek across Canada starting from British Columbia in a "Bike to Grow" project to share stories and raise funds in communities along the way for GROW – Greater Rural Opportunities for Women, in Ghana. The project helps women grow and market soybeans and improving food security for families.

"Along with poverty, I also saw a huge inequality for females. Mary Fehr, the girl I am biking with, was in Tanzania with MEDA and we kept in touch and talked about these issues. We thought it would be symbolic with two girls biking across Canada to support another MEDA project that focuses on female independence."

She and Mary are in communication with Arvid Loewen, who is in the Guinness Book of World Records for biking across Canada in 13 days. They plan to travel from May to September to allow for speaking engagments along the way.

"He has been kind enough to give Mary and I some help. He is from Winnipeg and we communicate via email. As well, Mary and I will be taking all of April off to train more intensely as the bike trip is starting May 15th."

Dedication to humanitarian work started at PECI then flourished in university.

"When I was in university I was a vice-president of a university non-profit organization, Humanitarian Organization for Latin American Students (HOLAs). We raised money with parties and bake sales for things such as the earthquake in Chilli and Haiti and helping to build a well for a school. During my fourth year of university I went on an exchange to Pamplona, Spain to attend university in 2011/2012. I came back to Carleton in 2012 to finish my studies in International Relations and graduated in 2013. During my last year I applied for internships and job opportunities where I could gain international experience and after three interviews and a Spanish test, got an internship with MEDA.

Between now and the bike trip, she is living in Quebec City to improve her French.

Sarah invites County residents to support, and learn more about the journey. They will be paying their own airfare and costs, have purchased their bikes and are now training. Their fundraising goal is $150,000 – 100 per cent of funds going to the GROW project.

Visit biketogrow.com for more information, Click social media links to follow: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Service, ethics is foundation of their businesses

Source: "Service, ethics is foundation of their businesses" by Rose Simone in The Record (In print: page 1, page 2 and page 3)

KITCHENER — If you serve your community and customers well, you won't need to worry about the competition.

Jeff HorstChris SteingartThat's what two young business owners — Jeff Horst (right), 25, who co-owns a digital marketing firm called Echosims and Chris Steingart (left), 34, owner of QT Web Designs— have learned in the years since they began their enterprises.

The two were among 20 business owners in North America who recently received Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) awards for people under 35 who combine entrepreneurial spirit with service to the community.

Steingart, a former youth pastor who started QT Web Designs seven years ago, works out of his home office in Kitchener.

Echosims employs six people in offices in the Breithaupt Block in Kitchener. Horst and co-founder, Matt Martin, also have a side business called Meersocial, which provides online social media training on a subscription basis.

Steingart's customers range from real estate agents to small manufacturers, but he also does work, often on a discounted basis, for non-profit organizations, charities and faith-based groups. Steingart gives a lot of his own time to organizations such as Sustainable Waterlooand The Community Players of New Hamburg.

"I would say about 10 to 20 per cent of the work I do is for non-profits," Steingart says.

Horst, who grew up in a Mennonite family in Hawkesville, helped launch Echosims when he was only 21. He too has been involved in a number of local charities and initiatives. Last year, he initiated a ball hockey corporate challenge with proceeds going to the local food bank.

Both entrepreneurs have found that business success comes from doing quality work while being true to yourself and your principles.

Steingart was a youth pastor for the Waterloo Kitchener United Mennonite Church for a couple of years after he came out of university. He and his wife Jillian then taught English in Korea and he wrote a blog about their experiences.

When they returned, he decided to launch his own business. His love of project management and creative design led him to start QT Web Designs (the QT stands for Quality Transformations), a creative services firm. It specializes in website design, hosting websites, and branding of print and web content.

Steingart got into the business by taking online courses and going to seminars and workshops. He uses the WordPress custom theme development platform to create unique websites while also giving clients the ability to make changes on their own websites.

Steingart prefers a sole proprietorship. "I made a decision early on that I didn't want to be hiring and firing people," he says. But he also recognized he couldn't do everything, so he has a network of independent contractors with different skill sets he can call on.

Running his business out of a downstairs home office reduces his bricks-and-mortar costs, so he can charge customers a bit less than what bigger companies charge. He gives discounts to charities and non-profits.

"I feel strongly that groups with limited means should be able to improve their design presence and marketing reach," Steingart says. "It may not be all the bells and whistles, but I can give them something solid that they can build on."

He also provides clients with a library of video tutorials on how to maintain their own websites and make changes.

The one challenge of running a home-based business is "staying on task," especially now that Steingart has a family that includes a two-year-old son, Rowan, and a newborn daughter, Maya, who is only a month old. "I could work 24/7 because I enjoy doing what I do, but with two kids, I have to set a schedule and stick to it," he says.

Steingart says he has a lot of nonprofit clients because he understands their needs. "I speak their language and I understand the challenges they face, whether it be donor acquisition, conveying their mandate, or connecting with their target audience and developing a following."

Clients for Echosims have included home and commercial building developers, small and medium-sized businesses, and organizations such as the Accelerator Centre and the Grand River Hospital Foundation.

Horst says that when Echosims started, about four years ago, people told him not to start a website design business because there were too many companies doing website design. But he and his business partner discovered there was a need for better, high-value websites. "There was a big need to build more comprehensive websites that had more information on them," he says.

There was also demand for digital media advertising campaigns, including through Google ads and Facebook ads. So the company quickly shifted to becoming a full digital media marketing agency. It also works with a network of other independent businesses that specialize in creative design, video and other aspects of digital media.

"No two projects are alike," Horst says. "We build everything from scratch and our work is with companies that really want to take their websites to the next level."

Horst's second company, Meersocial, is still in a startup phase. It is a complementary business that sells social media training on a subscription basis. The online tutorials range from entry level knowledge of social media sites to understanding tracking and metrics so that businesses can know what is or isn't working.

Neither Horst nor Steingart worry too much about competition. Their work comes from word of mouth referrals. They have both found that what really counts is quality and delivering on what was promised. "If you do good work, you will get referrals," Horst says.

Both entrepreneurs refer work to other companies when they have more than they can do on their own. Other companies, in turn, refer work to them. "It is a very collaborative community that way," Horst says.

Horst and Steingart stress the importance of being involved in the community. "We love the community and we are very rooted here," Horst says.

Good business is also built on good principles, they add.

"Whether I am working with a nonprofit or not, my faith informs what I do as a business owner. That means I behave ethically, I don't steal designs, I deliver or even over-deliver on what I promise and I go the extra mile," Steingart says.

"I am not chasing the money but am looking to help people with the needs that they have." 

Fortified foods to save millions

Source: "Fortified foods to save millions" in the Daily News

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 (SUA) in Tanzania, just launched a two-and-a-half-year project aimed at reducing vitamin A deficiency using fortified foods.

“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.

A statement posted online by the Waterloo University this week said in Tanzania, about a third of all children under the age of five and women under age of 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 Prof Theobald Mosha, professor of human nutrition and public health, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, SUA 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 Prof 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.

 

Farmerline mobile technology training GROW women farmers like Anna in Ghana

GROW client Anna DebluSource: "Farmer Story #6 – Anna Deblu" by Jessica Kaisaris on the Farmerline website

In December 2014, Farmerline and MEDA visited Vida and 40 other female smallholder farmers in the Lambusie-Karni district of Ghana.

Meet Anna Deblu, a soybean farmer out of in Piina, the Lambussie-Karni District in the Upper West Region of Ghana. Through Farmerline and MEDA's GROW Project, which communicates agronomy audio content in local languages to women's mobile phones, Anna has been able to increase her soybean production from three bowls (7.5kg) per acre to an impressive 40 bowls (100kg) per acre. She explains how her crops were initially negatively impacted by unpredictable rainfall patterns and insufficient information on the appropriate planting times during her last production season.

Farmerline aims to fill this information void faced by many smallholder farmers by communicating data on weather forecasts, best farming practices, financial tips, and market access directly to farmers' mobile phones in the form of voice calls. In partnership with MEDA, Farmerline hopes to empower smallholder farmers, like Anna, across Ghana with timely and locally-relevant agricultural data.

'Ghana's growing economy is not evenly distributed amongst its people. Food security continues to remain a serious challenge due to poor crop yields as a result of, among other things, poor access to improved agricultural information and weather. Farmerline innovative technology is key in addressing this deficit'. – Mohammed Abdul- Fatawu, Value Chain Officer I MEDA Ghana.

Stay tuned as #Farmerline continues to tell the stories of small-scale farmers in Ghana over the upcoming months.

To learn more about the initiative, visit us at www.farmerline.org or follow us on social media @farmerline 

GROW project and Farmerline partner, educate Ghanaian women farmers like Vida on food security

Vida scooping her soybeansSource: "Farmer Story #5 – Vida Baazaantaayele" by Jessica Kaisaris on the Farmerline website

Did you know that half of Ghana's female population is in agriculture?

Vida Baazaantaayele is a soybean farmer in Piina, Wa. This past farming season, Vida suffered heavily from post-harvest losses due to insufficient storage facilities. Farmerline and MEDA's GROW Project have launched a partnership in order to educate women in the Northern region of Ghana on food security and sustainable households. The hope is to address challenges such as Vida GROW project clientVida's through filling the knowledge gap.

In December 2014, Farmerline and MEDA visited Vida and 40 other female smallholder farmers in the Wa district of Ghana. Workshops such as these are encouraging for women to form their own farming associations, a critical means of support for many women independently working in agriculture. Not only do farming associations allow farmers to collectively negotiate competitive prices, but it also opens the communication lines to provide a greater sense of community among those living and working together in the same district.

Over the course of the workshop, Vida took Farmerline to show her method of drying soybeans. During this time together, Farmerline was able to teach Vida new, simple techniques for storing and drying soybeans in order to reach optimum levels of moisture and greater yields. Techniques included running your hands through the grains and storing grains above the floor.

Vida is one of 110 million African women making a living in agriculture. Farmerline supports small-scale farmers, like Vida, by sending agriculture-related information directly to farmers' mobile phones in the form of voice calls.

Stay tuned as #Farmerline continues to tell the stories of small-scale farmers in Ghana over the upcoming months.

To learn more about the initiative, visit us at www.farmerline.org or follow us on social media @farmerline