Saskatoon MEDA chapter hears about Ghana

January 2, 2013 | God at work in the Church
By Karin Fehderau | Saskatchewan Correspondent
Saskatoon, Sask.
Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) helps women get loans to develop small businesses, such as this woman in Ghana who sells salt at the market.

Although the Saskatoon chapter of MEDA is considered to be a small group, their dreams to help others are big. Each year, this group of business people raises money for one project with an eye to giving $20,000 toward their chosen project. This past year, they agreed to help rice farmers in Ethiopia and at their spring gathering, over three quarters of that amount was raised.

“We want to bring hope to people living in poverty and disease,” said Ray Fast, president of the Saskatoon and area MEDA chapter.

At the Nov. 16 meeting, the focus was on the newest project to help women in Ghana. Kim Pityn, the Chief Operations Officer for MEDA, described the great need and the exciting potential of the new project. Describing the growing conditions in Ghana, Pityn painted a picture of sadness and desolation.

“In the north of Ghana, it is dry savannah,” she explained. Climate change has resulted in less rain, forcing the men to travel out of the area to find work, leaving the women behind without the needed resources to care for their children. In the space of 14 years, the number of people living in poverty in the area increased by 900,000.

“Eighty-eight percent of the population is living in poverty,” said Pityn.

Most farms are small. The women are expected to work on the farm, but this leaves them little time to tend their own gardens which are mainly used to feed their families. The women also face challenges in getting any extra produce to market.

“Our goal is to reach 20,000 women farmers,” said Pityn. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Association, women produce 70-80 percent of food in developing countries. Research suggests that soybeans will be an important crop and MEDA wants to help the women take advantage of this trend.

In a separate but related project, there is a need to encourage local banks to make loans to newer clients. To aid in that, MEDA is raising money for a risk management fund.

“This fund will be used to share the risk banks take on when they develop new loan products and extend credit to populations they have not previously served,” explained Rachel Hess, staff person.

Pityn shared stories about the results in Afghanistan, where women in a similar situation have received loans from MEDA. While MEDA needs to be careful in a Muslim culture to get the support of the men in the community, she explained how the women’s gardens are their target. On one visit, Pityn sat with a group of women and a translator to find out how things were going.

One older woman pulled a small purse from her garment. “This is my money, and when I use my money I don’t have to ask my husband for his money and that makes him very happy,” she said. In Afghanistan, these loans are reducing financial stress on families struggling to find dignity after poverty.

Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) helps women get loans to develop small businesses, such as this woman in Ghana who sells salt at the market.

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