In my last blog I wrote a lot about the work I was doing. So, this time I’ll start with some of the more fun stuff (okay, fun is relative here) that comes with the internship!
There are 19 USAID interns in Ethiopia this summer, which is, by far, the largest USAID internship program in Africa. Most other countries have 2, maybe 3 interns.
Ethiopia receives about $400 mil from the United States in foreign assistance every year. While this isn’t the largest sum in Africa (Egypt, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa all receive more money than Ethiopia), it funds a sizeable USAID portfolio, with lots of different projects happening across the country.
About half of the interns work at the U.S. embassy, directly for USAID. The other half of us were placed with partners that implement different projects funded by USAID money. The projects take place all across the country and most of us have had a chance to travel to the field to see and contribute to the projects. The projects range from agriculture (like mine) to health and to education. Each intern and project focuses on a different niche.
Before I left, quite a few people asked “Why does the U.S. even give money to Ethiopia?” Some even suggested I should be in Washington working on the United States’ economic woes, not Ethiopia’s.
Well, there are quite a few good reasons the U.S. sends aid money abroad. First, and most importantly for me, it’s the right thing to do. My main mantra has always been “To whom much is given, much is expected,” and I believe that holds true for the U.S. American funds support Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan, which sets ambitious targets for growth in all sectors and allocates significant resources to promote development. With the help of money from the United States, Ethiopians are growing a sustainable food supply and gaining access to healthcare and education. Secondly, Ethiopia is a stable country in a region filled with growing instability (read Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, etc.) It is in the United States’ interest to help Ethiopia grow and prosper so they can act as a regional stabilizer. Friends are always good to have, right? Furthermore, unstable countries (ex. Mali ), become havens for terrorist organizations. Again, it’s in the United States’ interest to make sure countries around the world do not become vulnerable to terrorist advances.
I side-tracked; back to the fun stuff. Most of us interns live at a hotel in a nice part of Addis Ababa, called Bole. While the living situation can get a bit Real World-esque; the group frequently ventures to new restaurants, coffee shops, markets, etc. I even went to a World Cup qualifier game between Ethiopia and South Africa. We also have travelled outside of the city to Awash National Park and Menagesha National Forest, which is the oldest park in Africa. USAID provides every intern with lodging and a per diem and we have easy access to a shuttle. I feel incredibly lucky that USAID provides so many amenities.
As for my individual office, it’s amazing. Compared to most other USAID projects in Ethiopia, our office is relatively small. I have about 8 co-workers, who are fun, easy to talk to, and have really introduced me to Ethiopian culture and made sure I learn as much Amharic as possible! I’m lucky I’ve been able to go on two six-day trips with them because I’m able to constantly practice the language and ask many questions. Most recently, we travelled to Dire Dawa for a conference on “Agriculture Research for National Development in the Face of Climate Change and Food Security.” The best part of the trip: I fed wild hyenas in Harare, earning myself the name Kelly Dafar, or “Kelly the brave one,” from my colleagues. The second best part of the trip was meeting Dr. Gambisa Ejeta, World Food prize Laureate.
In my last few weeks here, I plan to finish as much as possible for the climate change curriculum development at Dire Dawa University, assist Haramaya University with the development of climate change training materials and finish the Climate Change and Agriculture Best Practices document from the trip I wrote about in my last blog. I’m also going to Bahir Dar and Lalibela this weekend with 5 other interns. I am definitely not ready to go home and am already considering applying for a Fulbright in Ethiopia so I can come back ASAP.