Kassahun Kelifa Suleman, an Ethiopian, received his PhD from the Institute for Social Development program at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa. Kelifa is interested in the wild coffee Arabica bean and its use in the rural household economy. He is even more interested in the social, environmental and economic phenomena that surround it as an ancient way of life struggles to stay viable in the face of competing interests. Arabica coffee’s origins go back thousands of years to southwestern Ethiopia and it is currently a huge cash crop, generating income for a large portion of the population. However, today, its local cultivation and use is competing with conservationists looking to preserve the region for its rich biodiversity and the coal mining operations currently underway in the area, creating environmental, political and social upheaval. In the hopes of finding a way to create a working balance among differing resource use needs and priorities, Kassahun is looking to explore the historical use patterns of the crop, the socioeconomic impacts of its conservation, the implication of coal mining on the local livelihood and the relationships between the different actors in the region.
Dr. Kelifa has long been a leader in his community, as an organizer and tutor during his Middle and High School years. As an adult, he has worked with and led various community organizations as well as local and International NGOs to promote food security, sustainable agriculture/food systems and rural development. He sees the ability to problem solve, collaborate and communicate openly as hallmarks of a good leader and is pleased to have learned these skills from others throughout his career. He looked to continue his instruction as a Borlaug LEAP Fellow and extend the influence of Dr. Norman Borlaug’s influence in the agricultural world.
During his yearlong fellowship, Dr. Kelifa was mentored by both Dr. Jill Belsky of the University of Montana and Dr. Ehsan Dulloo of Bioversity International in Rome, Italy. Dr. Belsky is a Professor of Rural and Environmental Sociology as well as the Director of the Bolle Center for People and Forests. Dr. Dulloo is the Leader of the Conservation and Availability Programme at Bioversity International and has done extensive research on the preservation of wild coffee cultivars in Mauritius. Drawing from their experiences and skills, Dr. Kelifa received insights and expertise on qualitative research, particularly on data collection, analysis and the write up of his doctoral dissertation. In addition, Dr. Kelifa is grateful for the guidance of his PhD supervisor at the University of South Africa, Professor Julian May. Dr. Suleman completed his PhD in 2016 and is currently working as a freelance consultant and part time university lecturer in Ethiopia.
Dr. Suleman is also the founder and Managing Director of ACCENTURE Development Consult, which offers a comprehensive portfolio of consultancy, research and training services across key development and humanitarian sectors. Visit: http://accentureethiopia.com/