Prominent soil scientist and former state minister of agriculture, Tekalign Mammo, (Prof.) who won the prestigious International Fertilizer Industry Association’s (IFA) Norman Borlaug Award, passed away of natural causes, his family announced on Wednesday.
Tekalign was a professor of soil science and until his death was head of the Center for Soil and Fertilizer Research in Africa, a program at Mohamed VI Polytechnic University in Ben Guerir, Morocco.
Before his stint at Ben, the late Tekalign was a senior director at the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) where customized chemical fertilizers were introduced for the first time to Ethiopian farmers.
While serving as a state minister, he had been one of the key advisors and close aides to Addisu Legesse (ex-deputy prime minister and minister of agriculture) for over 20 years. In 2005, as state minister of agriculture in charge of natural resources, he introduced community-based participatory watershed management to rehabilitate degraded lands. This initiative became part of the food security agenda and has been adopted by other countries ever since.
In addition, his work has influenced the extension agenda over the past three decades. Among his achievements is cited his productivity enhancement of Ethiopia’s dark clay soils which resulted in up to three crops from the same land per season.
As a ministerial advisor, he was credited with the launch of a nation-wide acid soil rehabilitation programme through the application of lime—a technology highly adopted and appreciated by small-holder farmers.
Furthermore, he had been responsible for conceiving and recommending a countrywide digital soil fertility survey of agricultural land, the Ethiopian Soil Information System (EthioSIS), which is the most advanced soil fertility mapping exercise on the African continent.
His works and research findings have earned him several regional and international awards. He has published extensively and served in several international scientific committees.
Among internationally-acclaimed awards under his belt include The Yara Prize in 2014 and the 2016 International Fertilizer Industry Association’s (IFA) Norman Borlaug Award. Citations mentioned outstanding contribution to improving soil health and natural resources bases in Ethiopia, benefiting over 11 million small-holder farmers.
Despite his long service to modernize agriculture and contributions in shaping the country’s policy in the sector, his retirement came without the honor that he rightfully deserved. Upon retirement, he was drawing a monthly pension of 2,000 birr, he told The Reporter in May in Ben Guerir, where he was based until his death.
According to his family, Tekalign last month went to England for medical treatment, and died there. His funeral is scheduled to take place at the Holy Trinity Cathedral today, The Reporter has learnt.