MEDA navigates pandemic challenges

The pandemic has pushed 130 million people into extreme poverty and food insecurity. Mennonite Economic Development Associates’ annual convention highlighted how this has set back global poverty-reduction efforts by years and increased gender-based violence, prompting MEDA to focus on a mix of attending to small details and planning for long-term impacts.

Civil unrest led to concluding work early in Myanmar. Unrest is also impacting projects in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Haiti and Senegal.

President and CEO Dorothy Nyambi noted during the Nov. 5-6 online event that the way ahead was “much like peering through a fog.”

“We have been laser-focused on our goal of creating decent work for 500,000 people by the year 2030,” Nyambi said of MEDA’s “Towards an Equal World” plan.

MEDA had 209,000 direct clients, both individuals and businesses, in 23 projects over the course of its fiscal year, which ended June 30.

Openness and agility in negotiating new ways of working allowed MEDA to deliver $22 million in project work and create decent work opportunities for 106,000 women, youth and men around the world.

Agility sometimes required a different focus than has been typical for MEDA. A project in Senegal helped distribute masks, gels and flyers to raise awareness and combat the spread of COVID-19. It also distributed quality seeds and fertilizers to farmers in areas where most cannot afford these items.

New projects started in Haiti, Kenya, Senegal and Tanzania. Multi-year contracts worth $42 million were signed.

Highlights included MEDA’s first initiative in the Philippines, targeting more than 6,000 farmers in the cacao industry. A new six-year project in Tanzania will create conditions for 20,000 women entrepreneurs to thrive.

A new investment fund will strengthen some efforts. MEDA submitted a proposal to a Canadian foundation for a $50 million fund to support small or medium-sized businesses in sub-Saharan Africa to grow and create decent work for youth.

MEDA is now working on a $200 million plan to support African enterprises with both capital and business services. That expanded effort may launch in 2022.

Paraguayan businessman Ferdinand Rempel is joining the MEDA board, part of the organization’s effort to include voices from the Global South.

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