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This week saw the passing of two prominent Ethiopian public figures. Professor Tekalign Mamo, soil scientist and former State Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture passed away, on September 7, 2017 in Morocco where he was receiving medical treatment.
Professor Tekalign was the winner of the 2016 International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) Norman Borlaug Award for his contribution to improve soil health and natural resources in Ethiopia benefiting over 11 million smallholder farmers.
Professor Tekalign was also the winner of the 2014 Yara Prize while serving as State Minister of Agriculture. The 2014 Prize focused on individuals that contributed to the future of farming in Africa with a special attention to food and nutrition security and the challenges of employment and income generation.
“As a laureate, Professor Tekalign stands out for his remarkable effort across levels, but always rooted in a profound understanding of how transformation must always include the farmer. As a scientist, leader and practitioner, Professor Tekalign’s innovative and inclusive efforts have been instrumental in lifting millions of farmers’ income,” Jørgen Ole Haslestad, President and CEO of Yara and Chairman of the Yara Prize Committee has said during the announcement.
Professor Tekalign is also responsible for conceiving and recommending a countrywide digital soil fertility survey of agricultural land, the Ethiopian Soil Information System (EthioSIS), which is the most advanced soil fertility mapping exercise on the African continent.
EthioSIS has analyzed soils in 570 administrative districts to date, revealing significant deficiencies in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, zinc, boron, copper and molybdenum. It is estimated that accurate information on soil nutrient needs, if implemented at a full scale, can increase farmers’ yields by about 65 per cent on average.
Professor Tekalign holds a PhD in soil chemistry and soil fertility from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and in addition to his government roles, he has held academic, research, and senior management roles at Haramaya University.
Another public figure that passed away due to a car accident on the same day of September 7, 2017 was Dr. Wolday Amha, who served as the Executive Director of the Association of Ethiopian Microfinance Institutions (AEMFI). Prior to serving at the AEMFI, Dr Wolday worked as a consultant to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Dr. Wolday was also Assistant Professor, in the Economics Department, at Addis Ababa University, Teaching International Economics, Transport Economics and Introduction to Economics. He participated in the M.Sc. program of the department as thesis supervisor, Assistant Professor, Awassa College of Agriculture.
He was the editor of the Microfinance Development Review and had edited and published various books and articles on food security, agricultural marketing and microfinance. Dr. Wolday was the Vice President of the Ethiopian Economic Association (EEA).