Born in Jimma, Ethiopia, and educated in Ethiopia and Germany, Badege Bishaw did not expect to become OSU Forestry faculty. He grew up helping his father, a telephone operator, and mother, a housewife, on the family farm while attending Miazia 27 Comprehensive High School in Jimma. “I think the Agricultural Technical School and the work experience I gathered by working on my parents’ farm have greatly influenced my choice to pursue my higher education in Agriculture,” he explains.
Six years after graduating with honors from Alemaya University of Agriculture, Bishaw received his Masters in tropical forestry from the Faculty of Forestry, Technical University of Dresden, Germany. He then returned to Alemaya as faculty, where he helped create the Bachelor of Science program in forestry for the University and served as the first Chairman of the Faculty of Forestry. In fact, it was because of this position and the University’s recognition that more advanced training for faculty was necessary that Bishaw was asked to pursue a PhD in 1989. In 1991 he brought his wife and young son to Corvallis, intending to return to Ethiopia upon finishing his doctorate work.
However, change in government of Ethiopia at the time meant big changes for Bishaw and his family. According to Bishaw, the change “made it difficult, if not impossible, for me to go back and help build the new forestry program in Ethiopia.” The new government in power was from one ethnic group and was not inclusive of others. His sister, a University of Oregon graduate, was forced to leave her position as vice-minister of finance, but not allowed to leave Ethiopia. Rather than trying to return, therefore, Bishaw and his wife applied for political asylum. Bishaw became OSU Forestry faculty after earning his PhD in Forest Resources, first as research associate and now as director of international programs in the College of Forestry. He teaches international forestry and agroforestry courses and works with three universities in South Africa to help with sustainable agriculture, reforestation, and economic development.
Now a US citizen, Bishaw has established relationships with members of the Ethiopian government and is managing to give back to his native country, which he credits for his education and professional opportunities. Bishaw has served as the director of a collaborative project between the College of Forestry, OSU, the Wondo Genet College of Forestry and the Ethiopian Forestry Research Institute funded by the USAID. Through this collaborative project, Bishaw has helped the development of a natural resource curriculum at Wondo Genet College of Forestry and an integrated watershed management project with the Forestry Research Institute in Ethiopia. Last year, Vice minister of Higher Education Dr. Teshome Yizengaw visited OSU to speak with Bishaw and others about continuing and strengthening the partnership.
Besides his work at OSU, Bishaw is Chair of the Ethiopian Tree Fund Foundation (ETFF), which hopes to aide reforestation. According to the ETFF website, “at least 77% of the country's tree cover has been cut down in the last 25 years. Forest coverage has reached 2.7 percent. . . . According to experts, a country requires at least 10 percent of the land should be covered by forest.” The Foundation, which developed from e-mail conversations amongst Bishaw and other Ethiopian community members in Diaspora, hopes to help farmers get seeds and learn how to maintain the trees and benefit from them.
In his work at OSU, Bishaw focuses his research on international forestry, strengthening agroforestry and social forestry education, and riparian forest management, including establishing forest buffers on Oregon coast range agricultural lands.
Bio of Badege Bishaw written by Emily Thomas, Editorial Assistant, Forestry Communications Group, College of Forestry