Patricia Okoed-Bukumunhe's Blog

Day 1: Arrival

As part of her YEJA prize, Patricia Okoed-Bukumunhe received an all-expenses-paid study visit to the United States. In this blog, she shares her experiences of the projects, people and places she encounters.

As I touched down at Dulles International Airport in Washington DC, I perused through the 21-day programme lined up for me and couldn’t help but shiver with excitement.  It was clear that one of the first challenges would be dealing with the jet lag  from the 7 hour time difference. 

Arrival at Dulles Airport, Washington DC

Day 1

My morning started off well with a cup of tea in one of America’s best-known coffee chains. I smiled when I noticed a message on the cup saying it was bio-degradable material.  My first meeting was with National Geographic; a fun crowd and very knowledgeable about Africa.  Editor in chief of Digital Media, David Braun is familiar with the mountain gorillas in my home country of Uganda while Senior Editor Marianne Lavelle is well versed on renewable energy in Africa.  I suggested it would be great to see more content on Eastern Africa and was pleasantly surprised when they asked if I would consider blogging for them! You can trust I will be following-up on that offer. 

Meeting the team at National Geographic

My trusty guide Micaela and I then met with Sheikh Hamad Bin Ali Bin Jassmin Al-Thani, Vice Chairman of the Quatar National Food Security Program.  Qatar currently imports 90% of its food needs due to a lack of arable land, but Sheikh Hamad stresses that with the use of renewable energy, coupled with modern agriculture methods, Qatar could very well be on the path to providing for its own food needs by 2030.

Next stop was Voice of America which was a monumental visit from me.  VOA streams on many local broadcast houses in Uganda and the on-air personalities such as Shaka Sali have become household names.  You can imagine my excitement and shock when the Senior Development Officer – Ms Inna Dubinsky - informed me that I had a work station of my very own! I have been granted the honour of conducting a one-week internship at VOA. Meeting the project coordinator John A Ogulnik was further icing on the cake since John is coordinator of a programme focusing on Sudan where I am based.  The three of us brain-stormed on story ideas I could follow up during my internship and I left the building a happy woman.

Next stop: the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars for presentations on Population, Health and the Environment (PHE) projects conducted in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nepal and Kenya.  One bio-fuel project in Nepal reduced deforestation for firewood but also cut down on respiratory illnesses caused by burning traditional fuel.  My question is “who will manage and nourish these projects once the donors have left? What are the best systems to ensure sustainability?
Tomorrow I head to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Perhaps they can answer my questions.