Press Releases

MEDA recognizes new class of 20 Under 35 Awards

Young professionals embody faith, service and an entrepreneurial spirit

WATERLOO, ON – MEDA – Mennonite Economic Development Associates – recently recognized 20 young professionals for their world-changing work at the 2015 MEDA Convention in Richmond, Va. This marks the second year for the 20 Under 35 Young Professionals Changing the World Awards. Everence, a faith-based financial services organization, sponsored the initiative.

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Passionate MEDA supporter anticipates all-women field experience

MEDA field experiences offer supporters the opportunity to meet people changed by our business-minded approach to poverty and to learn how MEDA’s work enriches lives. This fall, however, we’re adding a new twist to our traditional field experiences. MEDA staffers Ruth Leaman and Bethany Nussbaum will lead an all-women field experience trip to Eastern Africa in October to visit our Ethiopian EDGET (Ethiopians Driving Growth through Entrepreneurship and Trade) project.

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Improved Multipurpose Planters: New tech for MEDA’s women soybean farmers

USAID deputy mission director Andy KarasFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 19, 2015

Wa, Ghana - Women soybean farmers are getting a boost from new labor-saving technology thanks to a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) grant program.

More than 80 excited women in Mennonite Economic Development Associates’ (MEDA) Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) project have received new multipurpose planters.

GROW, with funding from the Canadian government and MEDA supporters, focuses on improving food security for families in Northern Ghana by assisting women farmers to grow soybeans and forge market links that will increase incomes.

Picture: USAID deputy mission director Andy Karas congratulates MEDA program coordinator Livinus Balog and GROW farmers and on their new planters.

USAID’s Agriculture Technology Project (ATT) project offers grants to small-scale farmers that cover 70% of the GHS275 ($62.50 USD) cost for a planter, with the women contributing the remaining 30%, about GHS82 ($18.64 USD).

The first group of women got a discounted price, but subsequent buyers will pay the regular price. Demand is expected to increase once others see the benefits of the planters.

The planters are available through Antika, the largest distributor of farming equipment, inputs and crop protection products and partner for planter distribution in Upper West Region. Antika hosted a celebration and demonstration for the farmers, community members, and representatives from USAID, ATT, MEDA and its key facilitating partners, PRUDA, CAPECS, CARD, TUDRIDEP and PRONET.

Abdulai Antiku, managing director of Antika, welcomed a crowd of over 100 attendees and discussed the importance of new technologies to improve Ghana’s agricultural production. “These are some of the innovations that are gradually changing the primitive methods of farming inherited from our ancestors. The women’s involvement in farming is clearly demonstrated here. We hope these planters will go a long way to improve and boost their farming activities, especially [because] planting is one of the most tedious activities in farming.”

USAID's Ghana deputy mission director Andy Karas traveled from Accra to present the planters and congratulate the women. He was pleased that, “The community members, particularly the women – who are so important to the agricultural sector here in Ghana and everywhere – that the women themselves have seen the value of the planters and I understand are contributing a significant portion of money to the purchase of these planters. So they can plant more efficiently and realize greater yield and production, because they’ve invested in this improved technology.” Karas also reinforced the importance of public and private partnerships, technology and innovation, and supporting especially women farmers to increase Ghana’s food security.

He noted women are the backbone of farming, but often not enough attention is focused on how to help them. “This is a very concrete way that we’re doing that. These are labor-saving technologies that making planting easier, that make the work more efficient. There are many other demands on women as heads of household in much of Ghana. So this technology, I’m very pleased, is going to have a very beneficial impact on women in particular, and by extension children, husbands – all of us in the communities.” He also thanked everyone for their support and contributions, especially MEDA for their integral partnership on the agricultural and nutrition side in the northern sector.

In addition to the short demonstration on how to use the planter at nearby field, later this month MEDA and ATT will be conducting follow-up training on proper handling and maintenance of the planters in the communities. As MEDA program coordinator Livinus Balog pointed out, “It is one thing having the equipment and another thing knowing how to use it properly.” Mr. Balog also said MEDA is looking forward to further collaboration so they can link more GROW farmers to planters and other technologies.

Abena Baagiro from Suke, Lambussie-Karne District, a GROW farmer since 2013, expressed her excitement: “I’m happy that I will get one [planter] today and move on planting my things early.” She applied for a planter because it will speed up the sowing process. Abena said in the past she used a rope to create her rows and planted seeds by hand, which was so labor intensive that it required additional people to help her sow her soybeans. Now, she’s hoping this will change with her new planter.

Abena will grow one acre of soybeans this season, but she added, “The next time, if I know it is easy, I will add more.” Her new planter will not just benefit her: She plans to share it with the 19 other women in her GROW group called “Neewere”, which means “I love a good place.”

Women can rent their planters out for a small fee, allowing them to earn additional income to recover their investment and maintenance costs. Abena’s story is a great example of how these new technologies can improve food production not only for her family, but also her community and all of Ghana.

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For more information, please contact:
Linda Whitmore - lwhitmore@meda.org
Jaclyn Stief - jstief@meda.org
519-725-1633

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 GROW
MEDA's Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) project in Ghana's Upper West partners with local NGOs to improve food security by helping women grow more nutritious food, adopt simple irrigation systems to increase their yields and connect with markets. Women are learning better farming techniques, enjoying greater food security and a better variety of nutritious food, and gaining awareness of the benefits of a safe and nutritious diet.

 

MEDA to recognize world-changing young professionals

20under35 Logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 12, 2015

MEDA to recognize world-changing young professionals

LANCASTER, Pa. - MEDA – Mennonite Economic Development Associates – is thrilled to announce we are now accepting nominations for the second annual 20 Under 35 Young Professionals Changing the World awards. The awards seek to recognize 20 young professionals under the age of 35 who exhibit a commitment to faith, service and an entrepreneurial spirit. Nominations will be accepted until Sept. 1, 2015 and are available at www.20under35.com.

MEDA started the 20 Under 35 initiative in 2014 as a way to recognize an often-unnoticed group of amazing young individuals enriching their communities, their businesses and their networks for good.

“At MEDA, we have the unique opportunity to witness young people changing their world as we engage with our dedicated network of supporters. We want to make sure these people are honored for their important efforts,” says Dave Warren, chief engagement officer at MEDA.

Ethan Eshbach, coordinator of the 20 Under 35 awards, agrees. “It’s a humbling experience to look at the nominations we receive. These young professionals aren’t doing their work for personal gain. They’re deeply invested in the lives of others and are passionate about making the world a better place.”

This year, MEDA is pleased to welcome Everence Financial as the official sponsor for the awards. “As an organization that embraces MEDA values, we are delighted to partner with them in this initiative,” says Warren.

The awards are changing the lives of past recipients. Chris Steingart, owner of QT Webdesign in Kitchener, ON, and a 2014 20 Under 35 award honoree, said recently that this recognition positively impacted his business. “Clients saw the coverage [that came with winning a 20 Under 35 award] and it reminded them to get in touch [with my business].”

Award recipients will be celebrated at the 2015 MEDA Convention in Richmond, Virginia. To nominate an exceptional young professional today, visit 20under35.com.

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For more information, please contact:
Linda Whitmore - lwhitmore@meda.org
Ethan Eshbach - eeshbach@meda.org
519-725-1633 or 1-800-665-7026

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 Everence
Everence helps individuals, organizations and congregations integrate faith with finances through a national team of advisors and representatives. Everence offers banking, insurance and financial services with community benefits and stewardship education. Everence is a ministry of Mennonite Church USA and other churches. To learn more, visit everence.com or call (800) 348-7468.
  

MEDA volunteer auditor reflects on work in Ghana

Larry Hogg"I support MEDA's values - rooted in the Christian faith - and its mission to create business solutions to poverty. Jesus taught his followers that we ought to care for the poor and those in need. – MEDA's work is a practical, sustainable response to that."

Larry Hogg wasn’t sure what to expect when he signed up to be a volunteer auditor with MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates). He’s had an interest in, and been a fan of MEDA – its values and mission – for a while, so when the opportunity came up he thought he could learn more and see a different part of the world.

The accountant from Stouffville, ON, has been a MEDA supporter since 2009. He was researching microfinance and learned more about an organization he’d first heard of through reading The Marketplace magazine at his church. He’d expressed interest in going on an audit trip, but the timing had never worked with the accounting cycles at his busy bank job.

Then he met for coffee with MEDA resource development officer Marion Good, and he learned a trip to Ghana scheduled for February had been pushed to March. A couple of days later, MEDA internal auditor Susan Schmitz called him. “Susan and I chatted, and by the time I was off the phone, I had pretty much decided I wanted to do it.”

In quick order, Larry was led through the steps in preparing for his trip. “I was really impressed by how organized MEDA’s communication and guidance was in that respect. Corina (McGillivray) sent an application for a visa and security briefing, since there is some degree of risk, as well as an application for the role.

“I had been to Africa before; in 2008, my brother and I and our wives travelled to Botswana and Zambia, where he had served as a doctor for two years at a local hospital. That trip gave me some idea of what to expect.

“Susan provided other relevant information and Scott (Ruddick) called to give me a security briefing. MEDA’s security consciousness was evident from the use of Travel Tracker (consolidated organizational travel tracking software) and the support of in-country staff.”

Larry’s training and experience in auditing and accounting equipped him for the role. He didn’t get into the field or have a chance to meet the women soy farmers in the project, he said, “but it’s surprising what you can learn from an organization’s records.

“I was able to observe firsthand that MEDA has a culture of internal discipline regarding the use of donor funds, just due to the fact that MEDA is willing to take volunteer auditors along. The key word is transparency – a quality that I respect. That is evidence of honesty and integrity – good qualities for an organization to have. The experience validated the trust I already had in MEDA.”

As a Christian, Larry has contemplated his purpose on earth. “We’re all unique as individuals and God has a unique purpose for each one of us – our experiences, abilities and personality. Why MEDA resonates with me is its emphasis on business as a calling.

Highlights of the experience?

“One highlight was meeting the people in Ghana. – As a work colleague of mine would say, ‘It’s not only the climate that’s warm, it’s the people too.’ The staff at MEDA’s Tamale office were gracious and welcoming. And I got to know some new people.

“Susan made the trip a great experience; she’s energetic, professional, down-to-earth and deeply committed to MEDA’s mission – a good ambassador for MEDA. And (Ghana country manager) Catherine (Sobrevega) ... I was so impressed. It takes a lot of courage to go to some of the places MEDA works, like Pakistan, Libya and Afghanistan.”

Larry was also happy to know that the Government of Canada is a major donor to the GROW project: “It made me proud to be Canadian and see our tax dollars being used in such a worthwhile way.”

He’s interested in going back to see GROW’s field locations, to see how modern techniques and tools are replacing traditional ways to increase efficiency and yields. But for now, “I’m thankful to Laura, my awesome wife of 33 years, who, along with Susan and Marion, encouraged me to go.”