MC USA Archives welcomes a new collection of MEDA materials

The first MEDA project was in Fernheim Colony, Paraguay. A registered bull to improve breeding stock was imported by Sarona dairy farm. — MC USA Archives

Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) was born in 1953 out of the desire to provide support to Mennonite immigrants to Paraguay after World War II. What started with a small collection of U.S. business owners who wanted to encourage Mennonite businesses in Paraguayan colonies in the Chaco region has blossomed into a multi-national economic development organization. MEDA works in the agri-food market systems to combat poverty, focusing primarily on women and youth in rural communities in the Global South. Last year, MEDA helped to create and sustain more than 48,000 work opportunities.

In March of 2024, Dan Sauder, grandson of MEDA founder Erie Sauder, expanded the MC USA Archives’ collection of MEDA materials by donating two linear feet of additional MEDA material, documenting the organization from the 1950s through the 1970s. This brings the total size of the MC USA Archives’ MEDA collection to nearly 20 linear feet. In addition, the MC USA Archives holds records for three related organizations, which eventually merged into MEDA.

The Archives’ MEDA collection offers a window to the first 40 years of MEDA. It documents endeavors, such as MEDA’s first investment – a venture called Sarona Dairy, which fundamentally altered dairy production throughout Paraguay and transformed dairy into a staple food in the nation. Mennonites now produce 70% of Paraguay’s processed milk, yet comprise only half a percent of the population.

These documents tell complex stories about culture and community. Materials in this collection provide insight into Mennonite relationships with Indigenous people in the Chaco region, whose lives and communities were altered by Mennonite settlements. Other documents in this collection mark MEDA’s transition from working primarily in the Chaco region of South America to a more global mission – and MEDA’s need to find new ways of working as the organization navigated cultures and traditions with different priorities and perspectives.

In this 71st year of MEDA, and as the organization continues to find new ways to combat poverty, the MC USA Historical Archives provides unique insights into its formative early days.

This article originally appeared in MC USA Archives News, Vol. 2, Issue 2, and on MC USA’s website. Used with permission.

Olivia Krall

Olivia Krall is the archives coordinator for MC USA. She graduated from Goshen College in 2023, with a Bachelor of Read More

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