Project Description

Country Context

Ethiopia is a country rich in culture, history and landscape. In the last year it has undergone significant political change, with a new prime minister signaling a freer political environment and expressing a “pan-Ethiopian” national identity rather than distinct ethnicities pitted against each other. For international affairs students, Ethiopia hosts the major development challenges of our time, including:

  • Having one of the world’s fastest-growing economies over the last decade, and massive infrastructure construction, much of it fueled by Chinese investment, yet continuing to struggle with deep poverty and correspondingly low health and education indicators.
  • Climate-change affected populations struggling with droughts and food shortages.
  • Continued ethnic conflict, in recent years violently suppressed by the government but now, under the new and more open prime regime, seeming a bit unleashed.
  • A recent surge in internal displacement (1.4 million!) due to above-mentioned ethnic conflicts in the eastern Somali region and the south, in addition to already hosting Africa’s largest refugee population from the South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea conflicts.

New prime minister Abiye Ahmed has ushered in a more open national political environment, and formally ended the war with Eritrea after 20 years, inviting that country’s PM to visit Addis Abeba and opening the border. Abiye is in his political “honeymoon,” and Ethiopians right now seem more optimistic about the future, albeit with caution, than any time in decades. This optimism, however, is severely clouded with pent-up, violent expression of ethnic and political grievances, perhaps unleashed by this new era of openness. 
Aside from these issues, Ethiopia, one of the world’s oldest civilizations and most distinctive cultures, the birthplace of coffee, is a captivating place.

Project Work Focus

The Ethiopia IFP is organized around project work with national client organizations involved with economic and gendered development, education, and environment and climate change. While it is possible to work with an inter-governmental UN agency or international NGO, most of our client organizations are grassroots, national (Ethiopian) NGOs that actually need the work we contribute.

Many projects will be developing tools for Monitoring and Evaluation, such as data collection, data visualization, data analysis, and reporting.

Specific Project Work and Client Organizations

Spring – Summer Monitoring and Evaluation Work: Students start data collection design in Spring Monitoring and Evaluation I course, and then in Summer conduct data collection, data analysis, and drafting sections of evaluation reports. We will work on two M&E projects:

  • Women’s Self-Help Groups – Organized around the hypothesis that SHG membership improves women’s lives economically and psycho-socially. Last year’s IFP team conducted baseline data collection, surveying and interviewing 67 women, establishing a database for an evaluation for the Consortium of Self-help group Approach Promoters (CoSAP). This year’s team will follow-up, and also interview and survey new members for baseline data.
  • Income Generation and School Feeding Programs, Wide Horizons for Children – Child welfare agency that works with impoverished families in Tigray, Addis Ababa and Sidama on education, income generation, and microenterprise. Data analysis and report on an income generation program. Data collection, analysis and reporting on School Feeding and Education programs. Deliverable: Midterm Evaluation

Non-M&E Projects:

  • The Effect of Imported Second-Hand Clothing on Local Economy: Research and analysis on this issue with the Yom Institute of Economic Development, a university/think-tank that studies and teaches economics, environment and resources, and agriculture.
  • Enat Bank – Bank created to empower women, supporting women to make deposits, access credit, and trade services, and better manage finances. Internship for students interested in finance and gendered economic development.
  • Project with coffee industry, possibly with TechnoServe Coffee in East Africa 

Research or Independent Projects: Anyone with a specific research or project interest may design their own program, with guidance from the instructor. The program must be well planned out in Spring, and the student should expect to be self-directed in Summer.


We will study Amharic in Spring and Summer, as a means of negotiating the basics of daily life, and for the social and cultural inroads one can make by showing the respect of learning – or trying to learn and use – the language. In Spring, Amharic class will be held Fridays at noon, and intensively during the Summer.

Living in Ethiopia

We are based in Addis Abeba, though we also travel for work. Students will live together in a compound in Addis Ababa, a pleasant city with several decentralized hubs. High elevation (7,800 feet) means cool weather, and the rainy season will be upon us. The internet is slower than you will be used to, so if you are a person who needs fast and constant internet or has difficulty being unplugged, you should choose another IFP. The food and restaurants are wonderful and besides the magnificent local cuisine, Italy’s five-year occupation left a legacy of excellent Italian food. The coffee is quite simply the best in the world.

Program Info and Requirements


Supervisor: Mark Johnson