CRS intern shares experiences in Ethiopia

By Meghan Murphy
November 5, 2009

Shannon Keough

Ethiopia, particularly in the lower level areas, has a history of drought and agricultural difficulties. Due to erratic and/or little rainfall, many farmers struggle to produce sufficient crops.

This was the main point made by a Cabrini senior who interned in Ethiopia with Catholic Relief Services this summer.

Beth Briggs, senior psychology and sociology major, gave a presentation on her trip to Ethiopia, Wednesday, Oct. 28, in the Wolfington Center. For the attendees to become familiar with the Ethiopian culture, Dr. Mary Laver, director of International Partnerships, provided Ethiopian sandwiches and coffee.

CRS hosts internships for eight weeks of work for undergraduate students interested in international work. Briggs was one student given the opportunity to work with the Productive Safety Net Program and Small Scale Irrigation. The work involved with these two programs was the type of work a graduate student would be given. This summer marked the last available overseas internships through CRS for undergraduate students. CRS will continue internships for graduate students, however.

“I think it’s a great program and I’m disappointed it discontinued. So many people say they want to make change and Beth is one that really will,” Jamie Tadrzynski, sophomore history and education major, said.

Small scale irrigation systems have been installed in the central and northern parts of the country where CRS has been operating. PSNP has been placed where the most food insecure households are located in order for the residents to receive food aid. According to their physical capabilities, the ones receiving the aid will work in public works or direct support beneficiaries. In return they receive a certain amount of food aid.

Briggs’ role as an international intern was to conduct two case studies: quantitative assessment on small irrigation systems and qualitative assessment based on graduation from the government’s safety net program. In order for her to conduct the studies, Briggs was able to explore three field visits. Briggs shadowed the food security team and conducted the case studies in Megacha and Dire Dawa. She also had the chance to visit the area of Addis Ababa, the most heavily populated city in Ethiopia.

Briggs’ first case study was to evaluate the effectiveness of small scale irrigation systems in reducing food insecurity. In order to collect data, 10 to 43 households were randomly selected and a questionnaire was distributed to the head of the household or the spouse. According to the questionnaires, the majority of the spouses had an increase in income, increase in assets, increase in female decision making and a decrease of food insecurity for months.

The second case study was conducted to evaluate the impact of PSNP, and to evaluate the application qualifications for PSNP.

Current beneficiaries and graduates of the program from 2007, 2008 and 2009 were interviewed for the research. In order for a beneficiary to graduate in the region of Oromiya, they must have an income of 18,000 Ethiopian Birr, had a livestock of three to 10 animals and they must have proved that their crop growing had improved by 10 to 15 percent. Graduation for these beneficiaries would have been impossible if they did not receive help from those of different programs. Before July 2009, there was a concern of graduating 50 percent of the beneficiaries.

“We really view these opportunities not only as a chance for CRS but for students to learn in the developing world. They get the opportunity to work effectively with the local culture,” Laver said.

“It’s wonderful she had this great opportunity. I’m confident she will take with her the impressions she gained and make use of them in the future,” Sister Christine Marie Baltas said.

The future of food security lies in the hands of the chronic drought, corruption of the government and global climate change. Briggs realized that after her trip she was able to see herself having a future in international development because of the work she was able to take part in over the course of eight weeks.

“I finally connected my academic work with interests in international development,” Briggs said.

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Meghan Murphy

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