Insights from an internship with Evidence for Development

25th June 2024

One of the main reasons I applied for my Masters programme in Environment, Politics, and Development at King’s College London over other institutions was the opportunity offered to complete an internship placement module alongside my second semester of study, and I am pleased to say it was one of the best experiences of my degree. Evidence for Development piqued my interest due to the nature of the organisation, and its unique methods and approach to assessing rural livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its impactful work really resonated with me, having previously studied historic economic development and global inequalities, and more recently how climate change is exacerbating these disparities in developing countries.

Being able to learn about the Household Economy Approach (HEA) and Individual Household Method (IHM) was fascinating, especially as it enabled me to better understand the practical applications of such methodologies, and how concepts like living standards and disposable income, which I had previously studied from a more theoretical economic perspective, can be used to tackle real-world, large-scale issues like climate change and its impacts. Specifically, the dataset that I was uploading onto Evidence for Development’s online database focused on a rural village located in the north west of Wenchi municipal district, Bono region, Ghana. At first quite a daunting task due to the sheer amount of data, as I continued to work with the data and software I became familiar with its patterns and began to notice distinct trends through the Individual Household Method (IHM). From the data itself, key characteristics of households in the village became clear, for example the types of crops and livestock that were sold and consumed, common household assets, household structure, and types of income and transfers.

Most notably, the significance of groundnuts as a crop and source of household cash income was apparent. Building on this finding with further background research and contextual knowledge, it was interesting to learn the relative importance of groundnuts for households in Ghana, and apply this knowledge to the case of the study village. Groundnuts as a crop are typically sold by the women of the household to fund children’s school fees, and thus any reductions or fluctuations in yields will have a deeper impact on these households’ income and security. With climate change, groundnut cultivation in Ghana is likely to suffer, with increased rainfall variability and likelihood of extreme weather events e.g. droughts and flooding. This would therefore have long-term knock-on effects on children’s educational attainment, due to the diminished cash income, impacting future employment opportunities, savings, and long-term earnings. Additionally this would affect a household’s ability to purchase seeds for the following year’s crops, thus diminishing both financial and food security. It was interesting to research that drought-resistant groundnut variations are currently being introduced in some areas of Ghana to avoid these potential long-lasting effects of climate change on yields, although given its unprecedented and rapid nature, it is unclear how effective this will be as a long-term solution.

Understanding this scenario as just one of many possible impacts of climate shocks on rural livelihoods and household income was part of what made this internship experience so valuable. I was able to broaden my knowledge surrounding the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities, and be able to theorise the wider implications of this in a real-world context, with groundnuts representing just a small element of how livelihoods and household security will be affected by climate change. This also indicated to me the importance of Evidence for Development’s work, being able to see how their evidence can directly influence projects and responses on the ground to improve living standards and resilience-building in these rural, vulnerable regions.

Overall the experience working with the team at Evidence for Development was wonderful. It built upon and complemented my existing knowledge, whilst also allowing me to gain practical experience in the development sector, both from working directly with data, and also being able to assess and apply findings to a broader environmental context. Going into my Masters degree uncertain over the direction of my future career, working with Evidence for Development alongside my studies has helped me to hone my interests in developing countries’ vulnerability and adaptation to climate change, which I hope to explore further through my final thesis. I will be examining the role of developing countries in international climate negotiations through a postcolonial framework, to understand the long-lasting legacy and inequalities of colonialism has impacted the role of these countries in a climate policy sphere, and their approaches and attitudes to climate change. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with Evidence for Development, and hope to apply the skills and knowledge gained through this process in my future professional journey.

Categories: Climate change, Ghana, IHM, Resilience, The organisation


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