28 October 2020 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Supplied
Prof Edilegnaw Wale Zegeye, who has joined the UFS Department of Agricultural Economics, believes university education is not just a requirement for learners to receive a certificate; it is a means to change their character, capacity, and reasoning.

Edilegnaw Wale Zegeye joined the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of the Free State (UFS) as Professor of Agricultural Development Economics and Policy on 1 October 2020.

True to his belief that life is like riding a bicycle – to keep your balance, you must keep moving (Albert Einstein) – Prof Zegeye is not planning to wait for life to happen. He says that he is looking forward to engaging with his colleagues in the department regarding new challenges in the areas of teaching, research, and community engagement.

Teaching and learning

Prof Zegeye believes COVID-19 has made it necessary to come up with new ways and means of realising effective teaching and learning. He is convinced that even though online teaching has suddenly become the norm, many universities, including the UFS, will in future have to adopt some form of a hybrid, merging online with contact classes. 

“Given the uncharted territories we have to navigate, I foresee operational and content-related challenges in this area,” he says. 

These challenges, he believes, will require disrupting the status quo courageously, without neglecting the implications for teaching and learning outcomes.

Prof Zegeye is of the opinion that university education is not just a requirement for learners to receive a certificate. “It is a means to change their character, capacity, and reasoning. It is not about learning facts but enabling learners to think critically.”

His goal for his students is to enable them to master the subject matter content, not just memorise lecture notes to pass examinations. “Students should not expect everything from us, as teaching and learning is a two-way process. It is not a transfer of knowledge from a lecturer to students,” he says.

According to Prof Zegeye, success in teaching and learning is the outcome of the collective engagement of the lecturer, students, and the subject matter. He believes that was why Benjamin Franklin once said: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”


“In relation to research, the biggest challenge I anticipate is in terms of linking evidence-based knowledge with policy, implementation, and impact on the ground.”

He says the biggest challenge was to ensure that the knowledge generated is taken up by the relevant organisations and authorities in order to address the development-policy problem being examined. “This would, among other things, call for fixing the knowledge-action gap, addressing conflicts of interest, and engaging all the relevant stakeholders along, what I would call, the Research-Knowledge-Policy-Impact Nexus,” says Prof Zegeye. 

Prof Zegeye has more than twenty years of experience with higher education institutions, including the positions of Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor, Professor, and Honorary Professor (current appointment) in Agricultural Economics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). 

Although he spent several years at UKZN, he started his academic career at Alemaya University in Ethiopia. It was also at this university that he received a BSc in Agricultural Economics. He continued with his studies and obtained a master’s degree in Agricultural Development Economics from Wageningen University (the Netherlands), and later a doctoral degree in Agricultural and Natural Resources Economics from the University of Bonn. He obtained all degrees with distinction. 

Prof Zegeye has also gained valuable experience from working as an economist on the Genetic Resources Policy Initiative (GRPI) project of Bioversity International in Kenya. He has also been a consultant to, among others, the International Food Policy Research Institute and the International Livestock Research Institute. 

“Building on my experiences, I strongly believe that there is always room for improvement in whatever we do. If we all agree with that philosophy, all of us have a unique contribution to make to achieve excellence in what we do. There is a need to remind ourselves that excellence is not a destination; it is a journey that all of us need to take as a collective responsibility,” states Prof Zegeye. 

Published articles

To date, he has published more than 80 papers on water use in smallholder agriculture, agrobiodiversity conservation and technology adoption on smallholder farms, agricultural development policy, and impact assessment of development projects/programmes/policies. Prof Zegeye is also associate editor of the International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management and serves as a reviewer for various internationally accredited journals.

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