Tadesse Fikre Teferra (PhD) is an assistant professor of Food Science and Postharvest Technology at Hawassa University in Ethiopia. He is also a trainer in the design, execution, and communication of effective research. He is an Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Science and Development, a double-blind peer-reviewed biannual open-access online journal published by Hawassa University. He is also a founder and Chief Editor of the Food and Nutrition e-Newsletter (F&NeN).
He is a member/officer of 4 national and international professional societies.
Q1. Dr. Tadesse, can you briefly tell us what you do and your work?
Well, thank you for having me as an honored guest. I am an assistant professor of Food Science and Postharvest Technology at Hawassa University. I do teach courses to undergraduate and graduate students. I also supervise graduates (Master’s and Doctoral students) at Hawassa University and other institutions on their graduate research. I do engage in research and communication (publication) activities as a lead scientist and I was able to publish over 30 articles, the majority of which are well-indexed in global databases. I also contribute to peer-review and evaluations of scientific articles published in well-established journals in my field including Food Chemistry (impact factor of 9.231). These activities make up my routines. I have also been assigned by the Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer (VPRTT) of Hawassa University to lead the editorial activities of the Journal of Science and Development (JSD), also called Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences (AgVS). I sometimes volunteer to train staff and graduate students of Hawassa University and researchers from other universities and research institutes on Research Design and Data Analysis. I participate in many professional societies in Ethiopia and on a global scale and currently serving some of them as an officer.
Q2. Would you elaborate to your audience the status of food security/safety at the national and international levels?
Food security as a concept is defined by the United Nations as the availability of adequate and balanced healthy foods at all times for all segments of a community or a family or an individual. Looking at the status, the world is being challenged by the increasing world population and declining food supply – presenting a huge gap due partly to climate change and other socioeconomic and political factors. Predictive researches by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) shows that by 2050, the global population reaches over 9 billion and we need 70% more food supply than we have now. With the technological and economic capacities we have now, it is highly unlikely that we meet that demand and continue feeding humanity into the future.
Ethiopia and many other countries in the sub-Saharan region of Africa are severely short of supplying enough and balanced food to their population at the moment and the challenge is going to be more and more difficult in the future.
Q3. What would you recommend to a young student who would like to become a food scientist one day?
To young students who want to take up Food Science as a career, I encourage them to prepare themselves for future medicine – Food and Nutrition. I want to remind them to work hard to understand and benefit the most from the field. Then, I have two recommendations to all young scientists and leaders: on one hand to come up with innovative mass-production technologies for foods and nutrients that will supply enough to the growing global population. On the other hand, the young generation of scientists and political leaders should think about regulating the global population for a sustainable future. These solutions are not only expected from Food Scientists but all scientists and world leaders. Food Scientists are expected to ensure the quality and safety of foods supplied to the global markets at industrial and gastronomy levels. Food Scientists in Ethiopia and the sub-Saharan region are also expected to do research and innovate mechanisms and technologies that help us save foods from losses and make more nutritious foods available to the public.
It is also important that Food Scientists in Ethiopia and other African countries exploit African Ethnic Foods for their health promotion and get them commercialized at industrial levels.
Q4. What would you recommend to your professional colleagues/food scientists at home & worldwide?
I am a member of a non-profit organization called Global Harmonization initiatives (GHI) based in Vienna, Austria, where I am also serving as an Ambassador to Ethiopia. The major focus of GHI is FOOD SAFETY and I helped the initiative to generate a food safety reporting platform in Amharic and Afaan Oromoo, where people can confidentially send reports of food safety concerns to GHI, which will finally be reported to the concerned regulatory bodies in the country of incidence. Food Scientists around the globe are expected to join GHI and other global, regional, and national initiatives that work to ensure food safety for all and sustainable consumption of healthy and nourishing foods.
Q5. How do you stay up to date with the latest trends in your industry? And what will you advise others?
I remain informed of new developments in my field by subscribing to new issues of top scientific journals, research institutes (ILRI, CGIAR, IFPRI), and other international News outlet Media such as Science News. I also try to engage in professional societies both at national and international scales. I am serving as a reviewer for international scientific journals and I get first-hand information before it even gets published. I write review manuscripts in important areas and aspects of Environment, Food, Consumers, and Health and I do a lot of reading and keep myself updated. I hope all professionals in academia do that in order for them to be on top of trending developments in their respective fields.
Q6. What is trending at the moment in your area of specialization? How important is it to the environment and humanity?
There are various trending dimensions in the area of Food and Nutrition. The most important ones are going beyond conventional nutrients and their metabolism. We used to be concerned more about regular nutrients, but these days we are looking for non-conventional health-promoting compounds collectively called bioactive compounds with greater antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties. These are known to have active sites on their chemical structures that are known to scavenge and neutralize cell and tissue-damaging toxicants.
The other important trending dimension at the moment is the relationship between humans and gut microbiota (diversity and population). These organisms are yet to be better understood through extensive research. Still, research reports released so far indicate that these microbes can be manipulated through diets, where the health-promoting types can be increased and the pathogenic categories can be reduced. Regular consumption of non-starch carbohydrates and dietary fibers enhances the health outcomes of gut microbiota, which also have direct and indirect impacts on the chances of the person getting chronic diseases such as type II diabetes, hypertension, and different forms of cancer. Greater depth of these aspects are yet uncovered and more researches are needed.
Q7. I have seen on your profile you are an editor of various academic journals. Are there any challenges you encountered? Are there experiences you can share with the academic community pertinent to academic journal publishing?
I got the chance to serve as the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Science and Development (JSD) – a nationally accredited double-blind peer-reviewed open-access online journal of Hawassa University. I am greatly challenged taking up this role and also learned a lot. The first challenge was the three years backlogs in the release of issues of the journal. Together with the other editorial team members, I was able to fill the three years gaps in just 6 months with the support of the online journal system. The persisting challenge is the lack of commitment by reviewers who fail to respond to either accept or reject an invitation for reviewing an article, which is still concerning me for the continuity of our journal. I fail to understand why people lose interest in professional contributions by reviewing and shaping a scientific manuscript. I personally give reviewing assignments top priority and complete them within a week if not in a day or two. I reviewed about 14 articles in 2022 alone for 5 top journals in my field and feel very much satisfied and value their review certificates and other recognitions.
The other scholarly role I have initiated in January 2021 was the Food and Nutrition e-Newsletter (F&NeN), a bimonthly communication medium for the Food and Nutrition Community of staff, management, and students of the School of Nutrition, Food Science and Technology of Hawassa University. When launching this newsletter, I thought that staff, students, and outside volunteers would be happy to contribute contents and stories, but that didn’t happen at least up to my expectations. However, I have struggled to sustain it and released 10 issues so far and will be continuing to do so, although it is demanding a lot of sacrifices and pains from my side.
Q8. Do you have other significant contributions to the community that you want to share apart from your profession?
I guess I have some contribution as a millennial using digital platforms. Photography is one of my hobbies and I bridged that with the Local Guides Community of Google Maps. As part of this global community, I have contributed to improving Google Maps by adding photos of businesses and their products, and new places, reviewing businesses and services, promoting museums and parks, and answering questions about a particular business. I (Tadesse Fikre Teferra) have climbed up the ladder of levels of promotion in the community and got to level 9 out of 10. I was able to contribute:
- 7553 photos – which helped over 125,187,878 people around the globe
- 460 reviews and around ratings.
My contributions to google maps helped 140 million people around the world and I am happy and proud of this achievement, although it doesn’t have any direct benefit to me. For instance, two Photos of Hawassa University’s Head Office Building that I added were featured for a long time and fetched over 880,000 for one and 283,000 views. I believe that I was able to promote my university in a way and I am proud of that achievement.
Q9. If you have to make one wish in the years ahead, what would it be?
I wish I have a fully functional Food Science and Technology Research Laboratory at Hawassa University to help my students acquire the necessary research skills. Our university training programs suffer a big deal of practical skills and quality.
If I may add one, I wish to see the world free of human sufferings due to climate change-related natural and manmade (conflict-emanated) disasters.
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