As a Spring 2015 Fellow with Borlaug LEAP, Mohamed Blango did research for his doctoral thesis, titled "The Performance of a Micro-Dam Rainwater Harvesting System in an Inland Valley Swamp". He is interested in how the micro-dam system will help farmers with their irrigation needs in his home country of Sierra Leone. While Sierra Leone is one of the most humid countries in West Africa, seeing an average of 2.5 meters of rainfall per year, their rain-harvesting technologies are still in need of improvement. Micro-dams are small-scale rain-harvesting systems that will allow farmers to harvest and store rainwater for future use. He hopes that by using a combination of biochar and other collection and storage technologies along with these micro-dams, he will be able to help create a system that will contribute to Sierra Leone’s agricultural goals: ensuring food security, reducing poverty and conserving ecosystems. Food security in particular is also in line with the goals of Feed the Future, a USAID funded initiative that works in collaboration with other West African countries in similar situations.
Irrigation technology is not only a very important area of study for Sierra Leone and to West Africa in general, it is also a subject that is personally significant to Mohamed. After having pursued a Masters in Soil and Water Engineering, he became interested in how his skills could be used in capacity-building and extension efforts as they related to agriculture. Just before becoming a Borlaug LEAP Fellow, he was the lead investigator for a three-year groundwater-tracking project spearheaded by the International Atomic Energy Agency. He has also been very involved in other field and lab research activities at the Magbosi Land and Water Research Center. He feels he has the ability to use these experiences in conjunction with his ability to manage and offer guidance effectively to help train and lead those looking to him for assistance.
Mohamed worked with mentors Dr. Richard Cooke of the University of Illinois and Dr. James Quilty of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. Dr. Cooke is a respected professor and mentor whose research, among other topics, is focused on the design of rainfall harvesting systems. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Njala University in Sierra Leone. Dr. Quilty currently works at the International Rice Research Institute headquarters located in the Philippines. His research focuses on soil improvement and effective irrigation strategies. During his time with them, Mohamed hoped to refine and focus his research objectives while learning valuable techniques and strategies in the area of water management and engineering. He expects to receive his PhD in Agricultural Engineering from Njala University in 2017.