Over the course of this summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Kampala to intern with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission in Uganda. My internship placed me within the Office of Economic Growth, where I served as the climate change intern. The experience provided invaluable insight into the field of international development from the perspective of U.S. Government and other bilateral and multilateral donors.
Climate change programming is relatively new to the mission in Uganda and, as a result, most projects that involve climate change adaptation or mitigation are not projects in and of themselves. Instead, the climate change funds are nested within the broader natural resources and environment portfolio, which crosscuts a number of sectors. It is the Agency’s intention that these funds will enable climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts to be integrated or “mainstreamed” across projects in various sectors, particularly agriculture, which represents the majority of the Economic Growth portfolio in Uganda.
As the climate change intern, I worked closely with other important development partners, such as the German technical cooperation (GIZ) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in addition to the Government of Uganda’s Climate Change Unit within the Ministry of Water and Environment in an effort to facilitate knowledge sharing and coordination among stakeholders working on climate change programming. I also traveled to Kasese and Luwero, two of USAID Uganda’s partner districts, for district management committee meetings.
Prior to my trip, I had always grappled with the idea of pursuing a career in international development—both in terms of philosophical questions and more logistical issues (think travel and work-life balance)—but this experience gave me a sense of what “doing development” is all about. This 10-week stint was my first opportunity to get field experience and to see firsthand how USAID programs are implemented. Traveling to Kampala and throughout Uganda allowed me to better understand the challenges and the frustrations, but also the fulfillment that development practitioners experience on the ground. The insights I gained while in Uganda also helped to prepare me for my fall internship with Management Systems International (MSI), a Washington-based international development firm that carries out USAID contracts.
Ms. Veronique Lee holds a graduate degree in international relations from the Maxwell School.