Introducing the BMC Series SDG Editorial Board Members: Taddese Zerfu

Taddese Zerfu is a research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), focusing on the nexus between agriculture, nutrition, and health. His research examines the impact of livestock farming and animal-source foods on maternal and child nutrition in low- and middle-income countries. Previously, Taddese worked as a clinician, researcher, and academic in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, and the UK. He holds a PhD in Food Science and Nutrition from Addis Ababa University and a Master’s in Public Health from Jimma University. He completed postdoctoral fellowships at Tufts University and the African Population and Health Research Center. His work has earned several awards, including the Tore Godal Medal and the African Doctoral Dissertation Research Fellowship. He belongs to the Editorial Board of BMC Public Health.

Welcome to our SDG Editorial Board Members blog collection. We are hearing from the Editorial Board Members of the BMC Series journals whose work aligns with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Here you can find other posts in this collection, grouped with the tag ‘SDG editorial board members’. 

Tell us a bit about yourself 

As a research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), I specialize in the intersection of agriculture, nutrition, and health in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). My primary focus is Ethiopia’s National Information Platform for Nutrition (NiPN), which serves as a vital resource hub for nutrition-related data and interventions. Through the NiPN, our aim is to drive evidence-based policy decisions, implement effective nutrition programs, and improve maternal and child health outcomes by fostering collaboration among stakeholders.

With a background in Food Science and Nutrition from Addis Ababa University and a Master’s in Public Health from Jimma University, I have led impactful research projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, and the UK. My contributions have been recognized through awards such as the Tore Godal Medal. I am fully committed to deepening our understanding of the complex connections between agriculture, nutrition, and health to develop strategies that effectively improve public health in underserved communities. For more information about my work, please visit my profiles at the IFPRI and the University of Edinburgh’s Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems.

How does your work relate to the SDGs? Which SDGs specifically?

My work closely aligns with several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations. Specifically, my research and projects have contributed to several SDGs.

Improving agricultural practices and nutritional outcomes can significantly impact poverty reduction, aligning with SDG 1, to end poverty. By enhancing the productivity and sustainability of smallholder farmers and ensuring better nutritional health, my work contributes to breaking the poverty cycle.

My primary focus on agriculture, nutrition, and health directly addressed SDG 2, which aims to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. By researching the impact of livestock farming and animal-source foods on maternal and child nutrition, this study contributes to developing strategies that can improve food security and nutritional outcomes in low- and middle-income countries.

My work also supports SDG 3, which seeks to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages. By studying the links between diet, particularly animal-source foods, and health outcomes, my research helps inform interventions that can reduce malnutrition and improve overall health, particularly in vulnerable populations such as mothers and children.

My research often touches on gender issues such as women’s roles in agriculture and their access to resources and nutritional information. This supports SDG 5, which aims to achieve gender equality and empower both women and girls. Ensuring that women have access to nutritious food and the ability to improve their livelihoods through agriculture are key components of my work.

Collaboration is essential for achieving SDGs. My work involves partnering with various stakeholders, including academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, and governmental bodies. This aligns with SDG 17, which emphasizes the importance of partnerships in achieving sustainable development.

What challenges have you faced in your research? How did you work to overcome these?

In my research career, I have confronted significant challenges demanding creativity and perseverance. One major obstacle I encountered was the limited access to reliable data and resources in low- and middle-income countries. To overcome this, I established partnerships with local institutions and utilized technology for remote data collection and analysis, which helped mitigate resource constraints.

Another complex aspect of my research was navigating ethical and cultural sensitivities, particularly in diverse cultural settings involving vulnerable populations. To address this, I made sure to adhere to high ethical standards and actively engage with the communities I was studying. This approach ensured that my research was culturally appropriate and ethically sound. Additionally, conducting research in variable and unpredictable field conditions required me to adopt adaptable approaches and maintain robust communication channels with my field teams.

One of the challenges I encountered was translating my research findings into practical interventions and policies. This was due to gaps between researchers, policymakers, and practitioners. To bridge these gaps, I focused on disseminating my findings through policy briefs and involving stakeholders from the beginning of the research process. This ensured that my research had relevance and could be translated into actionable steps. Furthermore, promoting sustainability in my research involved various strategies such as capacity building, community empowerment, and advocating for the integration of successful interventions into existing systems.

Overall, these challenges have emphasized the importance of collaboration, ethical rigor, adaptability, effective communication, and sustainability in my research endeavours. Achieving SDGs in my research field promises a world of food security, health, economic stability, gender equality, and effective partnerships, creating a sustainable and equitable future.

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