Editor’s note: This story is written from the perspective of the subject, Dr. Woldezion Mesghinna, president of the civil engineering group, Natural Resources Consulting Engineers, which is based here in Fort Collins. Due to his origins in Eritrea and personal passions, Dr. Mesghinna published a book addressing the availability of food in Africa, called “How Sub-Saharan Africa Can Achieve Food Security.” This text focuses on reshaping the vast and growing poverty historically present in SSA by addressing a major factor: food security.
His full interview and discussion with KCSU host, Laurelle Turner, can be found online on SoundCloud and at kcsufm.com.
“I was born in Eritrea. My parents were small, rural farmers and ranchers. We were living outside of the village, about 10 or 15 kilometers away because we were ranchers. Sometime when I was close to six years old, I was tending, like anyone else, goats. I was running on a hill. I fell down and shattered my right knee. And because of this, they took me home and they tried to cure me using village medicines.
There was not a health center in the village or even in the nearby areas. I was there for quite a while and they took 3 months before they took me to the hospital.
So I went to the hospital and my parents went with me. When the doctor saw my knee he said that the only way to save me would be to amputate my right leg completely.
Only my father agreed. They told him he was the expert. There was nothing they could say.
My mother said no.
“You have to try first,” she said. “Try to save my son. Because my son is going to be a farmer and a rancher. He has to work 14, 15 hours every day. And if you amputate him, he will be unable to do the work that waits for him in the village. His peers will laugh at him. And one day, I’m sure, he will commit suicide.”
The doctor was struck by my mother’s determination. He tried for over 10 hours. And he saved my leg.
When I went back to my village, my parents found out that I was not able to work in the country side any longer. They decided to take me back to Asmara in Eritrea and I went to school there. After going to university in Ethiopia, I got a scholarship at Cornell University, more or less in structural engineering. After working here in the US for three years, I went back to school for irrigated agriculture.
I started my own company, NRCE, which specializes in water resources engineering and irrigated agriculture, in 1988, and we have become experts in water rights. The U.S. Government uses us as expert witnesses when working with Native American tribes. More recently, we have done a tremendous amount of work in Eritrea designing and helping construction management there – we just opened an office in Western Africa, in Senegal.
I need to do a payback to the origin of myself. My experiences have helped me to understand water resources. And in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), there is extreme poverty. I want to give the people and the governments there my help and my knowledge.
I believe that SSA can achieve sustainable food security and progress to light industrialization.”