Dr. Hagos Nigussie Kahssay
Dr. Hagos Nigussie Kahssay
2017 CSC graduate, Dr Hagos Nigussie Kahssay, used his childhood experience, as well as his academic education, as inspiration for the enlightening PHD project, Folk media forms and their potential for food security communication in Eastern Tigray, Ethiopia. This project investigates the unique potential of folk stories to promote food security in one of the most food insecure countries in the Sub-Saharan region.
The inspiring Dr Kahssay, who volunteered as a tutor for refugees while completing his PHD, took some time to answer some of our most pressing questions about his research. Here, he discusses his inspirations, challenges, and findings; as well as what he believes should lie at the heart of any development initiative.
Can you give us a brief overview of your research?
My research was about folk media forms and their potential for food security communication in chronically food insecure areas of eastern Tigray, Ethiopia. While there is a wide variety of folk media forms my research focuses on specific ones, such as Goila (songs and dance), Proverbs, Aa’dar (oral poetry), and Warsim (traditional information exchange system). My study employed an ethnographic research approach. Individual interviews, focus group discussions, participant observation and document reviews were used as tools for data collection. To validate results from different data collection techniques, data analysis was made using methodological triangulation.
What initially interested you in exploring the role of folk media forms for food security communication in Ethiopia?
I grew up in rural areas in the Irob district where folk media forms are the most common and popular forms of communication regularly practiced in socio-cultural, religious and political events. Messages through these communication forms are credible and can easily disseminate among people. Therefore, understanding these qualities of folk media forms, I was curious to examine the potential of folk media forms for food security communication in Irob and Gulomekeda districts in Ethiopia.
What most challenged you in your research?
The most challenging part of my study was access to the research sites. Rural food security as a program in Ethiopia is part of the government’s policy to alleviate rural poverty and improve food security. Thus, prior to undertaking research about rural food security programs, I am required to obtain approval from the regional and district level government offices.
What were some of your key findings?
I found that, there are not clearly designed food security communication strategies in eastern Tigray, but food security messages are communicated through public meetings organized by the government representatives or development agents.
I also found that, community members, development agents and rural food security experts believed that folk media forms have a great potential for food security communication in eastern Tigray. Respondents in Irob district revealed that Aa’dar (oral poetry) and Goila (songs and dance) have the most potential for food security communication compared to other folk media forms.
Despite varied perceptions among respondents in the Gulomekeda districts, respondents in the Irob district indicated that folk media forms could potentially be integrated into food security communication strategies. Food security experts and development agents also indicated that folk media forms possess the adaptability to integrate them into food security communication strategies.
If there was one thing that you’d like people working in the food security sector in Africa to take away from your research, what would that to be?
Sustainable development and social change originates internally from a social system. Development initiatives should be consistent with the needs and expectations of the people. Thus, people working in the food security sector need to listen to people and understand the context.
What has the research taught you about social change more generally?
Concerning communication and social change, my research has taught me that for sustainable development and social change, the culture, values and knowledge of the people remain at the heart of any development initiative.
What did you enjoy most about doing a PhD?
Doing my PhD was a wonderful learning experience that gave me the opportunity to work with a delightful supervisory team. It also gave me the opportunity to understand in detail how important the culture, values and knowledge of people are for successful sustainable development and social change.
Do you have any other plans for life after your PhD?
Currently, I am looking for post doc positions to further build my research career. Otherwise, my preference is to continue my teaching and research career at Mekelle University, Ethiopia.
Do you have any advice for others considering a PhD in your field?
My research has shown me that there are varied perceptions among stakeholders about the potential and applicability of folk media forms for food security communication. Thus, my advice is to highlight the fact that folk media is a broad concept representing a variety of forms in different settings that have differing communicative, entertainment and educational potential. As a result, there exist different levels of people’s acceptance and preference towards each folk media form, which determines their applicability for development communication in a given setting. Therefore, it is important to identify folk media forms that have the most potential and are mostly accepted by stakeholders in a specific context.

Dr Hagos Nigussie Kahssay took his unique lived experience of folk media as a communication practice in Ethiopia, and used it to create a fascinating final thesis. We’d like to congratulate him for achieving this milestone in his education and wish him luck with his teaching, and future research.   


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