As a young boy in Ethiopia, he dreamed of being a fighter pilot, partly inspired by Top Gun. As he grew up, he made a 180-degree turn and is now a strong advocate for peace, which goes well together with working as a researcher who wants to improve the lives of the poor people of the developing world. Meet professor Yonas Alem, one of the excellent keynote speakers at EfD’s Annual Meeting!
What will you talk about at the Annual Meeting?
I will talk about the impact of climatic shocks on the livestock sector in developing countries, most importantly in Africa.
I will present an ongoing study that I’m working on together with Meseret Abebe, a Ph.D. student in the collaborative Ph.D. program. We plan to publish a discussion paper by the end of this year.
Why did you choose this topic?
The impact of climate change on crop production has been relatively extensively studied, but not the effects on livestock production. Yet, livestock is extremely important for very many poor households. Livestock is not just a source of income, but also of food, transportation, and input for plowing by smallholder farm households in many developing countries.
We have studied the El Niño induced drought in 2015 and how it affected livestock production and found that the effects were really severe. We discuss policies to help farmers cope with climate shocks in the future.
So what policies can help farmers cope with that?
There have to be safety nets when droughts occur. It can be providing food programs, veterinary support, fodder, etc.
You have spent most of your professional life working for EfD. Why EfD?
Greg Mankiw, one of the great economists once said “If you want a happy life, find something that you love to do and find someone to pay you to do it. That’s what I have done. EfD is an incredible global network and it’s an important platform for making an impact through research, academic capacity building, and policy dialogue.
What do you like most about your job?
It’s the fact that we focus on policy-relevant research. We can change the lives of poor people by helping policymakers implement the right policies, e.g., policies that encourage the adoption of modern and environmentally friendly technologies, conservation of natural resources, improving production, etc. We also train and mentor young scholars from developing countries.
Is there something that you are extra proud of?
Following an important work I did together with Remidius Ruhinduka on the impact of Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) stoves on charcoal production, we helped provide input for the Tanzanian government to design a larger initiative that helps households switch from using charcoal stoves to LPG stoves. Now I’m working on the impact of climate change on agriculture in Nigeria to provide input on the role of effective climate adaption strategies.
What are your thoughts about the Annual Meeting?
Our Annual Meeting is very important. It’s a platform for bringing together the EfD family from all countries, young and old, to exchange ideas, give feedback on each other’s work and have fun together.
By: Petra Hansson
About Yonas Alem
Yonas Alem is a Senior Research Fellow at EfD. He is also responsible for managing the Ph.D. programs jointly run by the University of Gothenburg and universities in Africa.
He received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Gothenburg in 2011.
2011-2019, he served as the Research Director of EfD and has been a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, and Brown University. He has taught Ph.D. courses in Advanced Panel Data Econometrics, Impact Evaluation and Causal Inference, and Development Economics, and supervised several Ph.D. students at the University of Gothenburg and other universities. He published extensively on environment and development.
Yonas’ page on the EfD site
Yonas’s page on the University of Gothenburg site