Mekelle University’s team won a national award for best researchers and innovators

A team from the Department of Animal, Rangeland and Wildlife Science, led by Dr. Mulubrhan Balehegn, has been undertaking research on “Ficus thonningii Silvopastures’ since 2006. This research has been awarded a bronze medal at the seventh national award for researchers and innovators prepared by the Ethiopian Ministry of Science and Technology.


Dr. Mulubrhan Balehegn and Ato Amanuel Berhe during the award Ceremony



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A group photo of other awardees and the guest of honor of the occasion H.E.P.M. Hailemariam Desalegn

The research started by understanding the role of the drought tolerant Ficus thonningii tree for livestock production, soil fertility and environmental resilience, has spanned activities ranging from measuring nutritive value of the foliage, biomass productivity, impact on animal, impact on soil fertility and use in clime change adaptation in Ahferom district central Tigray, where the system has been traditionally used. Dr. Mulubrhan was able to source different funds from different organizations that enabled the team to undertake the research. The sources of funds included Mekelle University recurrent fund, NoRAD III project, International Foundation for Sciences, Norwegian Research Council, Tropical Biology Association and South African Young Scientists Program .

After eight years of meticulous research, the team lead by Dr. Mulubrhan Balehegn has formulated an evidence-based manual and protocol for successful establishment of Ficus thonningii silvopastures in different areas. Through the use of that manual and trainings sponsored by different organizations including Mekelelle Univerity, GIZ-SLM- Tigray, The Bureau of Agriculture and Natural Resource, REST, the team was able to disseminate the technology to other districts mainly Degua and Kolla Tembien, Ahferom, Atsbi Womberta.

Apart from the local dissemination activities, Dr. Mulubrhan has presented the findings of the Ficut thonningii silvopastures research in many national international conferences and symposia including the Tenth International Rangeland Congress in Saskatoon , Canada, The Livelihoods camp in Burkina Faso, The International Climate Change Adaptation Symposium in Addis Ababa, and Traditional Forest Related Knowledge in Accra, Ghana, Extensive Livestock Expo, Nairobi, Kenya and many other international and national conferences held in Ethiopia. The findings of the research has also been published in many international outlets including: The African Journal of Range and Forage Sciences ( and ), The Journal of Tropical Animal health and Technology ( ), Journal of Livestock Research for Rural Development ( ), and as conference proceedings in many international conferences.

This research and publication has enabled Dr. Mulubrhan Balehegn to be awarded the Best Researcher Award of the College of Dryland Agriculture and Natural Resources for the academic Year 2014/15. Moreover, this work was given an award as the most promising initiative at the SOS-Sahel Livelihoods Camp in April 2015 at Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso ( It has also been shortlisted among the 100 best climate practices by the Best Climate Practice Observatory Project of the International Center for Climate Governance ( ). This same technology was also one of the three best extensive livestock feeding practices selected for showcasing on the Symposium on Extensive Livestock Expo held on November, 2015, in Nirobi Kenya (


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Dr. Mulubrhan Balehegn receiving award for Ficus thonningii silvopastures as the most promising initiative  at the SOS-Sahel Livelihoods Camp in April 2015


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Ficus thonningii is a drought tolerant tree with diverse livelihoods and ecological benefits

The team continues to get involved in the “Ficus thonningii silvopastures’ mainly on areas of efficient techniques of propagation, including proposed tissue culture, role of the system in carbon sequestration, and new ways of processing leaf meal. Therefore, the team calls for the various partners to support the effort to disseminate this noble and low cost technology to other areas in Ethiopia, and other African countries.

Author: African Academic/Researcher

Science and Research by Africans for Africa

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