Young Eritreans working in various projects of nation development are not just many in number but also wholeheartedly devoted to their people. Selam Teklay is one of the many. After graduating from the Eritrean College of Agriculture she’s been serving at the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) as an expert in the Migratory Pest Control Unit (MPCU). She and her team are always on the vanguard to prevent and control pest infestation. Their efforts and expertise play key roles in the Nation’s endeavors to ensure food security. Q&A introduces you to Selam Teklay who gives us a glimpse of the MOA’s efforts to control migratory pests with a view to ultimately ensuring good harvest.
- It is nice to have you here with us today. Let’s start with a small introduction.
Hello and thank you. I am an expert of the Migratory Pest Control Unit in The Ministry of Agriculture. I did elementary school in a village called Zuwl and for my junior and senior secondary education I went to Mai Nefhi Secondary School. Then I went to Sawa and joined college afterwards. I studied Plant Protection.
So this was your passion from the get go.
I knew I wanted to study either medicine or anything that has to do with life. So, when I first went to college, plant protection was my first choice as it was something that I’ve always wanted to learn.
- What is it like to work as an expert at the MOA’s MPCU?
I have been working there for four years and it has been very interesting. The department first comprised the Plant Protection Unit but from there our unit branched out in a bid to strengthen it. Eritrea’s geography makes it a pest breeding area. As part of the overall national development and food security plan, the prevention and control of pest infestation is one of the many priorities of the Eritrean Ministry of Agriculture. It is something that our unit takes very seriously and diligently.
- Trans-border pest infestation or local outbreak of some birds, desert locust and armyworms is something the local media disseminate to raise people’s awareness. And what would be your office’s effort towards it?
It is complex but if I may put it in few words, I’d start by mentioning that Eritrea is one of the countries that breeds desert locust. Our sea shores are recession areas for some pests. What’s important is that although we have recession areas we control the outbreak or spread of pests. Our mission is to ensure the harvest is intact despite the odds. So, when it is the rainy season in these areas, we are on standby from September to late December. We fist conduct surveys and put out a forecast. We analyze the behaviors of the pests and from there we take measures.
- What are yours and your colleagues’ days like at work?
They are hectic. We are always on standby. There are pests that we are used to and some that are new. Therefore, we focus on learning new behaviors and we quickly set out to control them before any damage is done. For example, armyworm infestation is not common in our parts. When it happened lately, for many of us, including myself, it was a new experience, very challenging and demanding. We are not stationed in one place. Season after season, we’re always on the move.
I can dare say that pest infestation isn’t something people in the highlands are alarmed by. And the reason is because they just think there isn’t any. We rarely see pests.
That is thanks to the joint and restless effort of our branches and, most importantly, farming communities of the lowlands. They are first of all very knowledgeable about comportments of the pests and their indigenous knowledge is praiseworthy. We come in only after them. Our work wouldn’t have been as fruitful had it not been for them. People in the highlands don’t know much about pest outbreaks. They have never seen swarms on their plantations. And this evidently explains why people don’t experience pest i n f e s t a t i o n s . The MOA and its branches, jointly with partners and farmers, work to prevent and eliminate any infestation as it can be very dangerous.
- What can you say about people’s awareness of this issue?
So, like I said before, in the highland people forget about pests. But they should very well be aware. In other parts of the country the awareness of the people is commendable. There have been commendable efforts made to spread awareness but we shouldn’t still relax as there is more that could be done.
- Is your job challenging since you’re always on the move? Do you have any plans to settle at the MOA Headquarters and maybe start a family or something?
Since I am a woman my entire job is very challenging. I am always on the move and I miss out on so many things. But I love my job. There is excitement in the challenge as it is a shared challenge. I do want to settle. I am 28 years old now and that is definitely a big part of my plans. However, I don’t think I’ll ever quit my job for it.
- Well, thank you and best of luck!