The Yara Prize 2014 is being awarded to Professor Tekalign Mamo Assefa. Currently state minister and adviser to the Ethiopian Minister of Agriculture, Professor Mamo has long been a key contributor to the country’s food security, soil health and natural resources programs. The laureate will be celebrated during the Yara Prize Ceremony in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 2 September.
Improving the livelihoods of Ethiopian farmers
It all started back in 2005, as part of the company’s centennial celebration, and in response to the call for an African Green revolution – Yara launched its prize to recognize outstanding contributions to African agriculture. For 2014, the Yara Prize Committee has focused on the future of farming in Africa. Special attention has been given to food and nutrition security and the twin challenges of employment and income generation.
“As a laureate, Professor Mamo stands out for his remarkable effort across levels, but always rooted in a profound understanding of how transformation must always include the farmer. As a scientist, leader and practitioner, Professor Mamo’s innovative and inclusive efforts have been instrumental in lifting millions of farmers’ income,” says Jørgen Ole Haslestad, President and CEO of Yara and Chairman of the Yara Prize Committee.
Over the past three decades, Professor Mamo has endeavored to improve the livelihoods of Ethiopian farmers, leveraging his scientific knowledge and exhibiting leadership. Developing targeted interventions for management of waterlogged soils, rehabilitating acidic soils and degraded landscapes, winning farmer acceptance of technologies and modernizing Ethiopia’s fertilizer advisory service are important hallmarks of his engagement.
“By awarding the Yara Prize, we salute the champions of sustainable agricultural development. I wish to extend my personal congratulations to Professor Mamo,” Haslestad says.
About the Yara Prize laureate
Born in 1956 in Lekemt, Ethiopia, Professor Mamo graduated as Ph.D. in Soil chemistry and fertility at Aberdeen University, Scotland. From a strong academic basis, Professor Mamo has expanded beyond a purely academic role. In 1985, he and a team of experts launched a national project to improve the country's vast clay soils, especially those that get waterlogged and impair crop productivity. The results have benefited millions of farmers to date.
In 2005, he led the work on a watershed development strategy, focusing on community ownership and the use of proven technologies. Using this approach, Ethiopia reversed degradation on about 13 million hectares of land, and turned them into productive assets. The rehabilitated watersheds are now being legally transferred to landless and jobless rural youth, who can use them to generate income while preserving the environment.
Through his recommendations and leadership, a new conceptual and operational framework for fertilizers has been developed. A national mapping of soil fertility at a district level has been undertaken, and new fertilizers have been introduced which improve past approaches. Over 40,000 new fertilizer demonstrations have been conducted. Many consider this the beginning of a new era of fertilizer use in the country.
Professor Mamo’s achievements have also led to his position as one of 13 global commissioners for Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, and him serving as one of 27 leading global experts in the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils. He still guides and supervises graduate students, and he is the founder of the Ethiopian Journal of Natural Resources.