While the need for high quality food is essential to proper growth and development in children, it is often inaccessible to many children worldwide. Borlaug LEAP Alumni Dr. Dawd Gashu’s research focused on some of the many of the issues resulting micronutrient deficiencies due to the consumption of poor quality, low nutrient-dense foods during his time as a Fellow. While the cause of micronutrient malnutrition is multifaceted, with this “hidden hunger” being particularly acute in Ethiopia, his focus centered on iron, iodine, and selenium deficiencies. His study evaluated the association of these micronutrients to the health, cognitive development, and thyroid metabolism of children under five years old.
During the Borlaug LEAP fellowship, Dr. Gashu traveled to the Oklahoma State University to work with Dr. Barbara Stoecker. He spent six months in Oklahoma training in analytical techniques and working in Dr. Stoecker’s state-of-the-art trace element laboratory. His CGIAR mentor, Dr. Moti Jaleta, oversaw Dr. Gashu’s analysis of the physicochemical characteristics of the soil and agricultural practices that affect selenium bio-availability in staple crops. Dr. Gashu’s experience at CIMMYT provided an important research link between agriculture and nutrition. He was able to present his research at various conferences and forums, including the 2014 World Micronutrient Forum in Addis Ababa and the 2014 Experimental Biology Conference in San Diego.
Dr. Gashu strongly believes that leadership is not necessarily an inborn quality and there is no inherent obstacle to becoming a leader. According to Dr. Gashu, leadership is a matter of acquiring skills and knowledge, and putting those behaviors into action. Prior to beginning his PhD studies, Gashu was employed as a Lecturer at Addis Ababa University and he has returned to the University as an Assistant Professor at their Center for Food Science and Nutrition. In addition, he serves as a mentor and advisor to several Master's level students. In the past, he has worked in support of the country’s Nutrition Program on Human Capacity Development for the alleviation of under-nutrition together with his colleagues, by providing pre-service training in the area of human nutrition to students in the graduating class in the field of agriculture, health, and education. He is currently serving as co-investigator on a project evaluating the protein digestibility and micronutrient bioavailability of complementary foods in the Amhara, Oromia, Tigray, and SNNP regions of Ethiopia and serves on the national committee that is hoping to establish a national salt iodization facility. Finally, he is also working on a project dealing with selenium (Se) deficiency and viability of soil Se mapping and biofortification, done in conjunction with several international organizations and Universities.