Press Releases

Bike to GROW tops $100K entering Ontario

Mary Fehr and Sarah French celebrate Canada DayFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 6, 2015

Past MEDA interns cycling across Canada for Ghanaian women

WATERLOO, ON – As they biked across the Manitoba border into Northern Ontario, Mary Fehr and Sarah French had extra power pushing their pedals.

Past MEDA – Mennonite Economic Development Associates – interns Fehr and French are on a four-month bike ride across Canada, called Bike to GROW, to raise $150,000 for MEDA’s GROW (Greater Rural Opportunities for Women) project in Ghana.

In a matter of days, the Bike to GROW duo surpassed $75,000 – the halfway point to their $150,000 goal – and then $100,000, a special surprise in time for Canada Day.

“Reaching these milestones in our home province was amazing. We’re thankful to many giving Canadians and Americans who have supported us thus far,” says Fehr. “It provides the motivation we need to bike up those long hills, continue in the rain and start the day when we’re already tired.”

“Complete strangers have opened their homes, hearts and wallets to provide a place to sleep, a complimentary meal or a friendly face in unfamiliar places,” says French. “We’ve met so many people who are inspired by our efforts and MEDA’s work. Mary and I in turn are equally touched by their generosity and kindness.”

The young women look forward to reaching their hometowns in the coming weeks: Sarah is from Picton, ON, and Mary from Leamington, ON. “Our friends and families have been a great support system while we’re on the road,” says French. Fehr adds, “But we’re eager to celebrate with them in person at the finish line.”

Bike to GROW began May 18 in Victoria, BC, and will conclude Sept. 1 in St. John’s, Newfoundland. On the way, Sarah and Mary are stopping at MEDA chapters, churches and community centres to speak with locals about MEDA, the GROW project and their experience.

Funded by Global Affairs Canada (GAC), MEDA's GROW project focuses on improving the incomes and food security of 20,000 women soybean farmers and their families in Northern Ghana over six years.

To learn more, follow their experiences, or donate to the Bike To GROW campaign, visit www.biketogrow.com.

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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.

Cycling for a cause

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 13, 2015

Sara French and Mary FehrPast MEDA interns biking cross Canada to raise $150K to empower Ghanaian women out of poverty

WATERLOO, ON - Sarah French and Mary Fehr aren't your typical 20-somethings and their upcoming adventure is no different. Both were recently part of MEDA's – Mennonite Economic Development Associates – intern program: Sarah worked on an agriculture project in Nicaragua, Mary on a health project in Tanzania.

After seeing the impact of MEDA's work helping women to get out of poverty and live healthier lives, they wanted to get more involved. In May, the pair will embark on a four-month bike ride across Canada to raise $150,000 for MEDA's GROW (Greater Rural Opportunities for Women) project in Ghana.

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

GROW clientsBike 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.

"I love to take on a challenge and prove to myself that absolutely anything is possible with willpower and determination," Fehr said. "Sarah and I cannot fail, especially with the amazing support we've received. We're no longer just biking for ourselves but for all of MEDA, MEDA's supporters and of course, the women and families in Ghana."

"It's really inspiring to see Sarah and Mary's passion for how MEDA works and their determination to succeed for women in Ghana," said Ethan Eshbach, coordinator of engagement initiatives. "Bike to GROW has encouraged many people to join us in our mission to create business solutions to poverty. Anyone can help by offering financial support, a place to sleep or by organizing a local event."

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.

"We"re so blessed and honored that women like Sarah and Mary want to support our efforts to empower women as entrepreneurs here in Ghana," Catherine Sobrevega, GROW country project manager. "These women 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. 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."

"It only feels right to use this ride as a chance to give back to the wonderful work MEDA does every day," say Sarah and Mary.

To learn more, follow their experiences or donate to the Bike To GROW campaign, visit www.biketogrow.com.

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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.

MEDA’s GROW Soybean Farmers clean up at the Farmers’ Day Awards

GROW farmers at Farmers Day AwardsFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 19, 2015

Pictured: Memuna Kusiau, Hawa Sumani supported by a family member, MEDA Staff (country project manager Catherine Sobrevega, Hilda Abambire, Joseph Zakpalah Derry and Kevin Linklater) and TUDRIDEP program manager Aloysius Kanchog

GHANA - In Nadowli, Ghana on a sunny Farmer's Day 2014, crowds gathered to celebrate a successful harvest and recognize the best farmers selected by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA). Mennonite Economic Development Associates' (MEDA) Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) farmers were strongly represented. MEDA's GROW project assists women farmers in growing soybeans and forging market linkages to increase their incomes. Currently, GROW works with 10,000 women farmers in 151 communities in the upper west region in Ghana, where 4,000 women have already planted soybeans.

Nine GROW women were among those recognized at Farmer's Day, including two regional winners and seven district winners. Memuna Kusiau from Nabulo, Sisaala East won Best Woman Farmer and Hawa Sumani from Nyimeti, Sisaala West took the award for Best Soybean Farmer. Additionally, Issahaku Afisa from Tarsaw won District Best Woman Farmer and six other GROW women farmers received the award for Best District Soybean Farmer, including Madam Assibi Bakewie, Banka Jamila, N-mello Abena, Aamurokuu Sabiana, Baamoyor Seitu, and Sortona Jutuo.

MEDA's GROW staff and local partners CARD, PRUDA, TUDRIDEP, PRONET and CAPECS shared in the joy and celebration of this unprecedented accomplishment. The Regional Best Woman Farmer, Memuna, smiled from ear to ear as she explained that she grew an impressive 20 acres of maize, two acres of soybeans, 12 acres of ground nuts, rice and yams. Next year, she plans to grow even more! A true GROW farmer with 10 years of farming experience, she wants to inspire other women to farm. Memuna said, "I will advise my fellow women to try as much as possible to be farming – it is a good thing for women to help us look after our children and our life."

The Regional Best Soybean Farmer, Hawa, was also thrilled about her success. When asked why she grows soybeans, she noted: "Soybeans are a good nutritious food, so everybody should try as much as possible to grow soybeans." Although Hawa had grown soybeans before, she decided to join MEDA's GROW project because she didn't have access to markets to sell her soybeans. She also wanted to learn how to use soybeans and be part of a women's group to benefit from the exchange of knowledge.

Hawa also attributed much of her success to MEDA's GROW project, explaining that she learned many agronomical practices through the training. For instance, she now knows how to sow in lines and space the soybeans, and understands the importance of weeding. Hawa had harvested over 50 maxi bags already and was still finishing threshing her remaining soybeans when she received the award.

It was a joyous day to be remembered for everyone involved with the GROW project. Catherine Sobrevega, MEDA's GROW country project manager, shared her feelings after the celebration: "We were very excited to give support to two of our GROW women farmers who were recognized – Best Soybean Farmer and Best Woman Farmer! It was very overwhelming and we were all very happy to be there for our women. We also heard that there were seven awardees in the four districts where we are working!"

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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.

Women farmers learn about smart technologies for the future

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 31, 2015

GROW Lead Famers staff and KFPs at the ForumTamale, Ghana - MEDA – Mennonite Economic Development Associates – sponsored five rural women lead farmers from their Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) project to attend the 5th annual Northern Ghana Pre-Season Networking and Planning Forum on March 26 in Tamale, Northern Region.

They traveled from various communities in the Upper West with MEDA's key facilitating partners (KFP) to participate and learn about smart technologies that increase productivity. The forum drew value chain actors and development agencies across Ghana working on soybeans, rice and corn.

During a welcome address, Brian Kiger from the United States Agency of International Development's (USAID) Agriculture Technology Transfer (ATT) project urged the farmers to "try something new this season" and challenged them to increase their productivity. According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), to sustain Ghana's current population growth, Ghana must double its food production by 2030.

GROW lead farmers learn from USAIDMEDA's GROW project, funded by Global Affairs Canada (GAC), is working hard to contribute to this goal. By 2018, GROW aims to assist 20,000 women farmers in northern Ghana to produce soybeans, increasing their family's food security and income.

The GROW farmers attended presentations and discussions about new technologies, farming best practices, available financial services for small farmers, crop insurance, and information technology services for the latest crop prices and weather news. They also had a chance to network with seed suppliers, financial services providers, information technology providers, agro chemical suppliers and many private exhibitors to learn about their products.

"I learned the type of seed you need to sow to get a better harvest-certified seed," said Kutum George, a GROW lead farmer from the Wa East District. She plans to contact the agro chemical suppliers and seed planter sellers she met before next planting season. Kutum grew one acre of soybeans last year, but hopes to expand her farm to three acres this season.

Another GROW farmer from the Wa West District, Sandii Yikpolp, felt that she benefited most from learning about conservation agriculture. "I farm soybeans. What I learned is that you need to start planning early and you don't need to burn everything in the farm," she said. "Leave it dusty and use cover crops, so that you fertilize it." Like the others, Sandii is excited to share her new knowledge with the women farmers in her community in the hope that they will all increase their productivity this season.

Abdullai Ayishetu, a GROW farmer in the Lambussie/ Karni District, felt that the forum was very useful to her. "Actually, I've learned a lot. You have to consider your land, seed, money you're going to invest and the timing too." Ayishetu plans to expand her soybean farm from one acre to one and a half this season. She was actively engaging with what seemed like all of the exhibitors: "I didn't know there were other organizations apart from Farmerline. Today I saw all of them."

When Ayishetu was asked if she would continue growing soybeans even after MEDA's GROW project ended, she replied with a smile: "Come what may, rain or shine, I will farm soybeans." With farmers like Kutum, Sandii and Ayishetu trying new methods and expanding their crop productions, it offers hope for a food secure future in 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.

Cuso International and MEDA invest in Nigeria’s future leaders

MEDAs YouLead project in NigeriaFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 23, 2015

YouLead project spurs youth entrepreneurship and financial inclusion

WATERLOO, ON – Youth unemployment is endemic to many developing countries. In southern Nigeria's Cross River State (CRS), 45% of youth are unemployed or underemployed.

But MEDA – Mennonite Economic Development Associates – is working with fellow development organization Cuso International to assist youth who are trying to break into the labor force and build a life for themselves.

While Nigeria is Africa's largest economy, only 21% of youth have access to a formal bank account, 17% save formally and 2% have received a formal loan.

The mismatch of youth education/skills and those required by the natural resource industry, coupled with gender barriers and unsafe, poorly compensated work pose significant challenges to youth searching for economic opportunities.

A new project, YouLead (Youth Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Access and Development), promotes youth employment and entrepreneurship in natural resources sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, ecotourism and aquaculture. By providing skills training, tools and access to finance, 7,000 working and entrepreneurial youth in CRS be able to prosper economically.

Over five years (2014-2019), MEDA will work with Cuso International to help local financial service providers better respond to the needs of young adults in CRS.

"YouLead is a great opportunity to build on MEDA's success and learning with the YouthInvest project in Morocco and Egypt," said MEDA's Jen Denomy, director of Youth Economic Opportunities. "Working with local MFIs, we will improve their ability to offer inclusive financial services for Nigerian youth, especially those looking to find a job or start their own business. We are excited to be working with Cuso International on this project."

The project is funded by the Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Cuso International and MEDA supporters.

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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 Cuso International
Cuso International is a non-profit international development organization that works to improve the lives of people living with poverty and inequality around the globe. Each year we mobilize hundreds of volunteer professionals who work with local partners to create positive lasting change. Established in 1961, Cuso International is a registered charity in Canada and the United States.