Dr Meseret Tesema – Associate Professor at Hawassa University

Dr. Meseret is an academician and researcher at Hawassa University who has 15 years of experience as and has worked with linking renewable energy with agriculture for the last 6 to 7 years. Dr. Mesert believes that climate change, agriculture, and energy cannot be seen separately. Accordingly, she works on providing electricity access to rural households by converting the agricultural outputs into energy.

Dr Meseret is one of the awardees of the Influential Women in Energy Award of the year 2021.

Dr. Meseret has spent all her career in academia and research at Hawassa University, working her way up from lecturer to associate professor position. She has participated in developing and leading several bi-lateral and multilateral research projects. She has worked as a principal investigator and co-principal investigator in four projects; three of which focused on climate change and food security, while one project focused on energy. Currently, Dr. Meseret leads five large projects, where each project has on average 20 collaborators. 

The project capacity-building research in biomass production and utilization in Ethiopia was first initiated in Norway (when she was doing her Ph.D. research) and centers around converting agricultural bi-products into renewable energy. The project has two components: capacity building and research. 

The capacity-building component focuses on setting up a graduate school on biomass energy and training staff, undergraduate and graduate students in the field of energy. Using a 60-million-birr fund from Norway, the project provided scholarships to 5 Ph.D. students, 40 master students, and 10 undergraduate students. The project was able to achieve this by identifying and connecting with different stakeholders in the SNNP region. Although an impact assessment has not been conducted, the recipients of the scholarships were from stakeholders in the energy sector in the SNNP region, and most have returned to their work after finishing their studies. 

She was very conscious of the gender balance of the students in her projects. There were 50% female students in the energy-related project. i.e., of the 40 masters’ students who received scholarships, 20 were female students, and 60% of the Ph.D. were females. 

In 2016, Dr. Mesert initiated a mentorship program specifically for masters and Ph.D. students with her colleagues at Hawassa University. For about one year, she has taken the load of mentoring all female students in the energy-related field. But then, she included the male lecturers and professors and assigned them, students, to mentor. The idea of the mentorship program was initiated after a competition for a fund, in which her proposal was not accepted by the funders. Therefore, she decided to start the mentorship with a minimum cost to help female students voluntarily. She has mentored ten female students on their research and professional careers; eight of whom graduated and six of them were in the energy field. 

As a contribution to her community, she educates people, creates opportunities, involves in different panel discussions, and researches on problem-solving projects. For example, she has a proposal on how to utilize Imboch for the good. If eliminating it is impossible, she has come up with an idea on how to convert Imboch to energy. Therefore, she believes she is changing the energy sector. 

In her free time, she fundraises and teaches at an autistic school as a volunteer. She has an autistic child: therefore, it is meaningful for her to engage in this kind of activity. Additionally, she teaches primary school kids about planting trees on their annual planting tree day.                     

Dr. Meseret describes herself as an honest person. As a 38-year-old woman, who has two kids, she says she is still growing as an educator and a researcher.  The period when she was pregnant while doing her Ph.D. in Norway was a challenging time in her life. It was hard for her to continue with her work, but she had a mentor who guided her not only on her research work but also on her time management, activity breakdown, and efficiency of her day-to-day life in general. Her five-year goal is to finish her projects, become a professor, and connect the nexus of agriculture and energy. 

Dr Mesret was awarded Influential Women in Energy Award at the Annual Women In energy Event hosted by EWiEn. The award is presented to women who work in the energy sector that are to have impactful leadership roles in the sector and therefore can pave the way for the young generation to aspire a profession and leadership role  in the energy sector. 

Her work through her project, capacity-building research in biomass production and utilization in Ethiopia, has contributed to the Ethiopian energy sector through capacity building.

Author: EWiEn