Debebe Lijalem Yilak joined the Borlaug LEAP Fellowship as a Spring 2015 Fellow and is working on his PhD research in the area of irrigation development in the Lake Tana Basin. The lake is recognized as one of Ethiopia’s most important water sources, providing irrigation to many farmers throughout its watershed, and making sure the area is responsibly utilized while maximizing its impact is crucial. His main objectives are to assess the suitability of the groundwater in the region and to find sustainable methods for extracting it to use for irrigation purposes. This will hopefully help alleviate the need to rely almost exclusively on rainwater collected during the rainy season and may help farmers produce more during the dry seasons. As a Feed the Future country, Ethiopia is working with USAID to help improve food security and Debebe is hoping that his research will contribute to this important initiative.
Debebe received his Master’s in Water Resource Engineering at Bahir Dar and has also been heavily involved in both governmental and non-governmental organizations dealing with water management and irrigation projects. He hopes to bring the knowledge he acquires during his Fellowship to concerned policy-makers that can affect change in Ethiopia. He believes that as a leader who is deeply rooted in seeing change happen with in his community and country, he can help guide those he plans to work with throughout his career. As an instructor and researcher, he views the work Dr. Norman Borlaug accomplished as a shining example of what it means to lead by example and he would like to continue in that tradition.
Debebe worked with Dr. Tammo Steenhuis, a seasoned Borlaug LEAP mentor with a long history of collaborating with Bahir Dar University and its students. Dr. Steenhuis’ main research focus is the management of soil and water within distinct landscapes. Debebe collaborated with the professor to collect, sort, and analyze data for his research while at Cornell University. In addition, Debebe worked with Dr. Petra Schmitter at the International Water Management Institute. Her interests and work lie in sustainable agriculture and urban development, which may have the potential to help reduce land degradation and boost responsible water conservation. She helped him create an action plan for his research and aided in implementing his findings. Debebe expects to complete his PhD in Integrated Water Management in 2018.