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Working for Peace and Development

By Kalkidan Kebede

Before joining the RPF program in 2019, I had been working in development fields for more than eight years. I had also been studying the development challenges, poverty trends, the different school of thoughts, world theories, development strategies and models. In general, I have adopted the different technical jargons of the development field. I knew that my professional as well as my academic experiences were not directly related to Peace, however, they were the pillars of Peace and Development. During my earlier academic and professional career, I missed including “Peace” as the most important component of development. Since I joined the Rotary Peace Fellowship (RPF) Program in 2019, I have been asking myself about my long-term commitment and engagement towards international Peace and Development. The RPF program is therefore a great eye-opening opportunity for me to learn the principles of Peace and its contribution towards a sustained world development.

The Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center and the MIDP program are helping me learn the importance of development policy to support peacebuilding through different academic trainings such as conflict management, peace and development, and negotiation and mediation courses. In general, learning and working for peace and stability are indispensable prerequisites for sustainable development. Thanks to Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center, the Rotary International and Rotary Foundation for organizing this wonderful Peace Fellowship Program.

Looking for an internship in the era of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Opportunities and Challenges

As many of my graduate classmates, I started to search and apply for my internship beginning from January 2020. Initially like many of the previous Rotary Peace Fellow cohorts and my MIDP classmates, I had a strong interest to work with and apply to international institutions such as the World Bank, the UN and other institutions in DC and NY. I had also used the DC trip as an opportunity to meet potential institutions and expand my network with people working in those important institutions. Because of the network I developed by then, I tried to apply to more than ten organizations and had three interviews for internship offers in early February. As a backup, I was also exploring openings nearby Duke and in the RTP areas just in case I could not get a call from my first priorities.

Kalkidan holds his baby in his lap while working at his computer at home.
Working from home, the new normal: July 2020

While waiting for the responses from the different organizations and taking spring classes in March, the news about the new Pandemic (COVID-19) became very serious in the US in early March. According to the CDC, the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. on March 8 was 423 and by March 18, the count had reached over 10,422 cases nationwide, over ten times larger than the count ten days before. The impact of COVID-19 become very visible across all states including NC. I also observed so many remote internship positions and opportunities coming through my email, university websites and other websites that I had subscribed to. So, that was the time that I decided to use the on-campus openings. After that, I started to reach out to those potential programs, schools and institutions and organizations at Duke. Then, I started to see a positive response to almost all my applications. After that, the biggest question becomes which program to choose among the available options?

Lessons Learned: Apply first and choose later!

My Applied Field Experience (AFE)

I believe that reaching the AFE stage is one of the milestones of the Rotary Peace Fellowship Program. Thanks to technology, available infrastructure, remote working flexibility, and a home working environment relatively conducive to my work, I am currently participating in two remote research programs located in Durham, NC. The first one is the project that I am working with the DevLab at Duke program and the second one is the Bass Connection partnership program with the Duke Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and RTI.

Project I- My AFE with DevLab@Duke Program: The DevLab @ Duke is an applied learning environment that focuses on connecting social scientists at Duke who work in international development with the community of development practitioners to conduct impact evaluations of development projects. Particularly, the Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning for Development (MELD) Internship Program provides training opportunities for Duke Masters Students. In coordination with the DevLab @ Duke, the MELD program engages students in the management and implementation of real-world development research and evaluation activities.

I applied for the DevLab-MELD Internship Program in early March and got accepted in late March. Since mid-May, I have had the privilege to work with two different active projects. Initially, I was tasked to develop a survey tool for a World Bank Hydro Electric Baseline Research Project in Tajikistan. Our MELD team successfully designed the tool and submitted the assignment to the client. We are now waiting the feedback from the client, the World Bank.

After submitting the MELD assignment, I was assigned to work on the Mozambique Land Certification Evaluation project. The direct client for this specific project was the USAID and I was tasked to assess and evaluate the end line survey data based on treatment and control group, assess temporal and spatial (different location) variation in Mozambique, and across different gender dimensions. So far, our result indicated a positive outcome and significant differences of the land certification project in Mozambique across the different dimensions. Our team is currently looking for relevant evidence to support the research project and start preparing the final policy document.

Five colleagues in a screenshot of a zoom conversation.
MCC Mozambique Weekly Meeting

Lessons Learned: From this specific project, I am receiving quality training focused on research and evaluation, real world international development work, opportunities for professional networking with different groups of experts, and learning multi-tasking responsibilities in a short period of time.

Project II-Strategy for Energy, Water and Agriculture in Rural Ethiopia (Duke-RTI) Project: Bass Connections is a university-wide initiative to provide students with greater exposure to inquiry across different disciplines, sustained mentorship, and a platform that gives students a chance to gain experience and work in the academy with real world challenges. Beginning in fall 2013, students were able to pursue problem focused pathways in five initial thematic areas: Education and Human Development; Global Health; Energy and Development; Information, Society and Culture; and Brain and Society.

Since mid-June, I have been working as a Project Manager for the Bass Connections: Strategies for Energy, Water and Agriculture in Rural Ethiopia (2020-2021) project which is currently running under the partnership of Duke Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and RTI. It is a project mainly interested to do research and development, business models and investment development, and policy analysis in energy markets that can help reliable electricity access and increase agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly focusing in Ethiopia.

So far, I have been collecting and reviewing important research papers, government policy documents, and analyzing primary and secondary data. I am studying and researching the alternative technologies that can expand economic opportunity through energy access, improving agricultural productivity, and developing irrigation and water access to rural communities in Ethiopia. Moreover, I am also supporting the same project in compiling relevant academic documents for one of its “Energy Courses” for the Fall semester.

Lessons Learned and Future Plans:

I am personally excited to join this project team because of many interrelated reasons. First, the project focuses mainly on Energy, Water and Agriculture nexus areas. Second, it is a project which tries to link different areas of sectors and uses multiple approaches to bring a sustained solution for people who are excluded and living in rural areas, and third it is a joint project between Duke and RTI that has a future prospect in terms of research, future investment and creates new development opportunities and jobs for millions of youth in my country, Ethiopia.

A picture of dam construction on the Nile, with green mountains in the background.
GERD, 2018 ©

Addressing the root causes of under development, poverty, chronic hunger, and increasing economic growth and development in Africa, particularly in Ethiopia is very crucial. Ethiopia has recently undergone a socioeconomic transition and is undertaking a huge investment in Energy, Water and Agriculture sectors. In addition, the government of Ethiopia together with the people are building one of the biggest hydroelectric dams in Africa, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) over one of the longest and controversial rivers, the Nile. At the Security Council meeting last week, the top UN Official for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs told to member states, “the Blue Nile is critical for the livelihoods and development of Egyptians, Ethiopians and Sudanese people.” They urged the three countries to strategically reach a win-win agreement on the GERD.

In general, my AFE is allowing me to explore the International Development and Policy field a lot more including giving me a few ideas of what career I would like to pursue in the future. Accordingly, I would like to do more research in the area of peace and conflict management in relation to transboundary water resource management, specifically I want to contribute to peaceful negotiation and mediation to help to reach the final process of agreement among the different parties on the Nile.

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