Colorado State University Signs International Memorandum with Ethiopia’s Hawassa University

Colorado State University signed an international Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Ethiopia’s Hawassa University to provide collaborative research and teaching opportunities for faculty and graduate students at the two universities.

The MOU was signed in January of this year, and in February, a team of four CSU researchers from the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory traveled to south-central Ethiopia where they taught short courses in geographic information systems, watershed management, animal nutrition and forest ecology at the Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resources located off Hawassa’s main campus. Additionally, the team visited potential research sites and met with Hawassa faculty and Peace Corps volunteers.

“Hawassa University is very similar to CSU in that both universities are about the same size and offer similar programs, including a veterinary school and a college of natural resources,” said Dave Swift, senior research scientist at CSU’s Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory and member of the CSU team that traveled to Ethiopia. “What Hawassa really needs is assistance with teaching in Ethiopia. Enrollment is steadily increasing and the university simply does not have a lot of well-trained faculty to put into teaching positions.

“We see this as an ideal opportunity to enhance CSU faculty, doctoral and graduate student teaching experience by adding an element of international exposure and gaining a developing-world perspective. These experiences can then be translated back into the classrooms here at CSU,” he said.

The Hawassa/CSU international MOU was initiated by Jessica Davis from CSU’s Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and Office of International Programs. CSU research scientist Paul Evangelista is now leading the effort with fellow scientists Swift, Melinda Laituri and Bill Romme for more direct collaborations with the Wondo Genet College. These efforts have been coordinated by Peace Corps volunteers Bob and Nancy Sturtevant. Bob recently retired from CSU and he and his wife Nancy now serve at Wondo Genet.

The CSU team is making arrangements to send two doctoral students to Wondo Genet this summer to teach an intensive four- to six-week course in wildlife management. Long-term, researchers envision a faculty exchange between the two universities on a regular rotation. This vision and the CSU partnership were highlighted by Donald Booth, U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, in a speech given at Hawassa University during the CSU team’s recent visit.

Evangelista and his colleagues are now developing specific research proposals that will engage faculty and graduate students from both CSU and Wondo Genet College in ecological studies of native forests in Ethiopia’s southern highlands. These forests, which lie between 8,000 and 13,000 feet above sea level, are home to an exceptionally high number of rare and endangered species that are found only in that region. These forests are also the headwaters to four major rivers that provide water for millions of people throughout Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. However, land-use conversion and climate change threaten these unique ecosystems, an issue that affects native forests and dependent communities throughout East Africa.

“Ethiopia is an amazingly diverse country,” Romme said. “From barren deserts to lush forests and alpine terrain atop the high mountains, the country faces numerous challenges related to land use and climate change. We hope to work side-by-side with our colleagues from Hawassa to better understand the ecological rhythms that are keyed to alternating wet and dry seasons. This will be critical information to help conserve Ethiopia’s native forests, which are shrinking due to land use and climate change.”

The Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory is based in CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources.