Government sets up award in the name of prominent scientist

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Dr. Seme Debela

The Ethiopian Government announced the establishment of an award in the name of the late Dr. Seme Debela (1936-2018), a prominent Ethiopian agricultural scientist, to stimulate excellence among young Ethiopian scientists in the sector. Making the announcement at a memorial event held for Dr. Seme at the Ethiopian National Theatre on March 9, 2019, Dr. Mandefro Negussie, Director-General of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), said his organization was also setting up a scholarship in the name of the late scientist.
This decision has in a way done justice to this unsung scientist who was unjustly removed from his post as the Director of the EIAR in 1992 for political reasons by the powers that be at the time. In a career that started as a research officer at the Holetta Research Centre and spanned more than three decades, Dr. Seme Debela made immense contributions in the agricultural sector. He is credited for being in the forefront in the establishment of the EIAR which he headed as a director for 6 years. He also served in some other senior positions such as being the Deputy Commissioner of the Science and Technology Commission.
The leadership of this icon in scientific research and extension systems was critical in transforming the agricultural sector in Ethiopia through agricultural innovation. Dr. Seme is highly credited in maize and barely research to boost the productivity of these crops thereby remarkably increasing the income of small scale farmers and contributing significantly in the country’s effort at achieving food security.
The documentary film that was inaugurated and screened at the memorial event recounted the lifetime achievements of Dr. Seme Debela in the presence of high level dignitaries including the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, CEO of the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency and the President of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences. The 45 minutes long film features the various aspects of the life of Dr. Seme Debela.
Since obtaining his Ph.D. degree in Genetics and Plant Breeding from the Iowa State University in the US in the early 1970s Dr. Seme served his country in the agricultural sector as a civil servant with utter dedication and commitment. He was recognized with the country’s prestigious awards including a Gold Medal Award he received in 2009 for outstanding leadership in building and managing agricultural research institutions across Ethiopia.
In addition to his official positions, Dr. Seme founded, led or served as a member of a number of professional associations and societies such as the Ethiopian Association of Agricultural Professionals, Ethiopian Academy of Sciences, Crop Science Society of Ethiopia, Plant Protection Society of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Economic Association. He also chaired and served as a member of, among others, the Board of Trustees of the former International Livestock Centre for Africa and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre.
Dr Seme published various scientific pieces on renowned academic journals and national proceedings. After retirement, he had served as an independent consultant to entities such as the World Bank, UNDP, FAO, EU, and SIDA.
Meanwhile, the Director-General of EIAR disclosed at the memorial event that his organization had named one of its building blocks after Dr. Seme Debela. The family of the late scientist handed over a relief art representing the image of Dr. Seme that will be fixed on the building block.