IN CONVERSATION with Prof Solomon Tefera Beyene

Read time: 4 mins

C-Rated Biological and Agricultural Science Researcher, and

Professor in the Livestock and Pasture Science Department, Faculty of Science and Agriculture

Who is Prof Beyene?

I was born in Ethiopia in 1973. I obtained my B.Sc. (1993) and M.Sc. (1998) in Animal Production from Alemaya University, Ethiopia. In 2003 I obtained my PhD in Grassland Sciences from the University of the Free State.  My love of nature and animals greatly influenced my decision to major in Animal and Range Sciences.

I have over 23 years research experience as a Rangeland Ecologist and Management expert, working intensively in the arid and semi-arid rangelands of southern and eastern Africa. I worked in eastern and southern Africa universities for over two decades. My teaching specializes in areas of Rangeland Ecology and Management, as well as  disciplines related to pasture and fodder management in semi-arid and arid ecology of Africa.

As a registered professional scientist with the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions,  my aim is to promote experiential and multidisciplinary research.

Please share some information about your research field, including past and current projects:

My research interest and goals include investigating the resource dynamics of arid and semi-arid ecosystems and environmental as well as managerial impacts on the sustainability of these resources to provide livelihoods.  I am particularly interested in delineating African degraded rangelands using local ecological knowledge (community perceptions), remote sensed technologies and field data.  I am also interested in evaluating  restoration practices to regenerate these degraded rangelands - based on their realistic needs. 

My research approach focuses on the conceptual frame which argues that development of sustainable adaptive practices to manage African rangelands and restore degraded environment, requires holistic approaches by integrating the four components of the ecosystem (soil-vegetation-livestock-man).

I have been involved in numerous research projects as a principal investigator and collaborator with Institutions from South Africa and abroad.

Key projects include:

  • Community based Rangeland Rehabilitation for maintenance of Ecosystem functions, services and goods.
  • Emerging Crop-Livestock Production Systems adapted to a changing Environment. Interreg V programme (2014-2020) for regional cooperation in the Indian Ocean.  This programme is funded by the European Union (EU). (2017-2020).
    • Developing a pasture legume intercropping system to restore abandoned grasslands of the Eastern Cape province (NRF Funded).
    •      Grazing management impacts on Plants, soil, C-N Pools and Methane Production Potential of rangelands. (NRF funded).
    • Integrating local and scientific knowledge in rangeland resource management and utilization for sustainable small-scale livestock production. (Agriculture Research Council (ARC)  and University of Fort Hare (UFH)  Collaborative research project).

 What do you think are your most significant research accomplishments?

  • I have published over 36 articles in peer-reviewed accredited journals, one book chapter and two working policy documents.
  •  I have supervised over 20 MSc and four PhD students to completion.
  • My research has contributed up-to-date science-based evidence for land managers, scientists, development practitioners, and policymakers in support of sustainable management of African semi-arid rangelands.
  • My studies also provided factual evidence to inform current state of African rangeland systems including in the Eastern Cape.
  • My research findings have added knowledge to a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of African rangelands by integrating the bio-physical resources and societal (human ecological knowledge) dimensions and their management.
  • Some of my research works have produced a database on African woody and grass plant species with their vernacular names, socio-cultural, environmental and forage values.
  •  Through my work, I have also managed to identify species that are drought or stress-tolerant with better capability as fodder bank development, to support livestock production systems in resource-limited communal livelihoods.
  • My recent work has also contributed to the restoration of deteriorating rangelands in the Eastern Cape in order to give better ecosystem services and goods to  society.


National and international recognition

My research outcomes have led me to be recognized locally and internationally. I serve as NRF panel in research proposal and review. I am an Associate Editor for the African Journal of Range and Forage Science and have reviewed many high impact journals.

I also serve as a regional consultant to the African Union and United Nations.  I  have produced working policy documents on developing pastoral policy framework and building climate change resilience for the African Livestock Production System.

What advice would you give to Young Researchers out there?

In these days of increased pressure and competition for rangeland resources as well as continuing impacts of climate change, research problems are countless and complex,  with some deserving urgent explanations and solutions.

Young researchers may find themselves under a great pressure.  This may not be good for creativity, but at the same time, these situations can be challenging, strenuous, and inspiring. Of particular top priority and high importance is that young researchers need to work as a strong team and  be well networked, in order to find solutions towards healing the growing degraded rangelands of Africa.