Community Partner Spotlight: MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates)

3 minute read

Most would agree that we are compassionately called to help those who live in under-developed countries, often facing crushing poverty. One example is Tanzania, located in East Africa, and home to nearly 62 million people. Tanzania is seen as one of the most stable countries on the continent. However, according to the Global Hunger Index, approximately 68% of Tanzanians live below the poverty line.

Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) believes that business solutions can be an effective intervention to address poverty. By providing three things – access to capital, market development, and business training – MEDA provides a “hand up to struggling entrepreneurs, and leaves the expertise in the country,” according to Dean Shoemaker, Senior Development Officer with MEDA.

MEDA began as an association of Mennonite business people who believed they were called to be faithful in generously sharing their abilities and resources. By working with private and institutional donors, MEDA works within agricultural systems and invests in businesses that have hit a bottle-neck in their growth. For over 70 years, MEDA has been creating business solutions to poverty that are sustainable, scalable, measurable, and replicable.

MEDA’s recent work with African Joy, a dairy processing company in Tanzania, is an excellent example of these values at work. Owned by Joy Joseph, African Joy started as a small backyard operation. Eventually, she had 100 farmers, mainly women, supplying her with milk. Joy wanted to expand her production of cultured milk and yogurt, and purchase new equipment in order to meet food safety standards. As well, she wanted to increase the number of collection centres with cooling machines that she operated, helping to reduce the miles farmers needed to travel to deliver their milk.

MEDA took a 50/50 approach with African Joy. They provided a 50% grant for the cost of the equipment while providing the other 50% through a capital loan and owner investment. This combined investment allowed Joy to purchase the equipment she needed, and rippled down to her producers, many of whom were women and children. They could eventually afford enriched feed, which helped increase the amount of milk they produced.

One of the unique challenges of this particular project were the conditions in which milk was brought to the production facility, often many miles from the dairy farms. The raw milk would often be transported in open buckets, losing much to spillage and contamination. MEDA provided incentivized loans to the farmers to purchase milk cans with lids. “By providing a loan, the farmers had an investment in their own success,” comments Dean.

Decent work is related to MEDA’s core purpose of building resilient and sustainable businesses and livelihoods for people in the Global South. It’s at the heart of MEDA’s Strategic Plan where their strategic goal is to create or sustain decent work for 500,000 people by 2030. By expanding women’s access to agricultural opportunities, it’s estimated that approximately 80,000 citizens could be lifted out of poverty every year while increasing annual agricultural output by 2.7 percent and boosting annual gross domestic product growth by 0.86 percent.

Kindred Credit Union has maintained a long standing partnership with MEDA, which currently includes a $600,000 invested loan in MEDA Risk Capital Fund. The objective of the fund is to support MEDA’s mission by investing in promising companies and private equity funds, which benefit poor communities while having a high likelihood of financial success. The fund has several investments in microfinance institutions and strategically supports the economic, environmental and governance development of communities in emerging and developing countries.

Although Tanzanians face a long list of challenges, rates of poverty are, in fact, going down. The 2019 World Bank report showed that in the last 10 years, poverty has reduced by 8 percentage points, from 34.4% in 2007 to 26.4% in 2018. African Joy is part of this success story. Joy now has 200 farmers supplying her with milk, and has doubled her production. MEDA has always been guided by the belief that all people deserve the opportunity to earn a livelihood and that unleashing entrepreneurship is a powerful way to alleviate poverty. Joy Joseph, through her company, is helping to achieve that for both herself, and dozens of women farmers in her region. Kindred Credit Union is proud of its long-standing partnership with MEDA as they help to inspire peaceful, just, and prosperous communities in Tanzania and around the world.

Kate Pearce

Kate is passionate about supporting and enabling communities to connect, make an impact, and thrive through the development of strong, trusting partnerships. Through her work, Kate turns commitments into action and works to bring Kindred’s purpose to life.

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