2013 Borlaug LEAP Alumni Alemayehu Assefa has over 20 years experience as an agronomist and has held positions of increasing responsibility at the Adet Agricultural Research Center in Ethiopia. Over the years, Assefa has seen the challenges he faced as a leader as opportunities to learn and grow. Fostering relationships, being objective, and communicating clearly are critical, Assefa believes, to good leadership.
In 2011, Assefa began pursuing a PhD in Agronomy at Haramaya University in Ethiopia. His research focused on sustainable intensification of maize under small-scale farming systems in the most degraded and infertile agro ecology of the country. His project investigated the potential of maize-legume cropping systems in northwestern Ethiopia. Maize-legume inter-cropping systems offer advantages from improved soil fertility to increased productivity. His research is important to smallholders in Ethiopia and will be applicable to other countries in the region with similar systems.
During his fellowship, Assefa traveled to University of Nebraska, Lincoln (UNL) to work with Dr. Charles Wortmann, Professor of Agronomy. Assefa worked with a crop modeling expert at UNL to strengthen his skills in integrating model use with field research, particularly tackling cropping system problems and anticipating increased climate variability. He also took advantage of his time in the US corn belt to learn more about other agricultural systems. This was his first trip to the US.
Dr. Kindie Tesfaye, a scientist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) – Ethiopia, supervised his field research and provided guidance in data collection and overall management of the experiment in the field. Both mentors provided advice in the analysis of data from Assefa’s thesis research.
Alemayehu Assefa is currently back in Ethiopia and working on his thesis and is planning to publish journal articles based on his research. He expects to complete his PhD by the end of 2015.