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U.S. Fulbright

From Bean to Cup: A Year in a Global Coffee Capital

July 30, 2015
Senay Kashay

Senay Kahsay, 2013-2014, Ethiopia (left) and friends enjoying a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony alongside Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile River in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

During the 2013-2014 academic year, I was awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student grant to Ethiopia to study the coffee supply chain.

Growing up in two different cities with strong coffee cultures inspired my appreciation for coffee from a young age. As a child in Addis Ababa, I experienced the rich communal process of the Ethiopian coffee tradition. Later, when my family and I moved to Seattle, I observed the meticulous and creative craft of preparing and marketing specialty coffee. This inspired my desire to develop a better understanding of how my favorite drink travels from farm to cup. As a Fulbright Student in Ethiopia, I studied the country’s coffee supply chain. From my base in the capital, I made trips throughout Ethiopia’s coffee-growing regions to develop my understanding of the industry by surveying farmers, processors, cooperatives, traders and exporters. Through these surveys, I outlined the industry’s demand forecast and communication methods and identified opportunities for improvement. I performed these surveys with the help of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX)—a recently established marketplace that has revolutionized Ethiopian agricultural commodity markets by providing farmers with price transparency and other market information. My project provided the ECX with better visibility of the coffee supply chain.

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U.S. Fulbright

My Time with the Bleeding-Heart Baboons: An Ethiopian Fulbright Experience, By David Joseph Pappano, 2010-2011, Ethiopia

July 5, 2011

Most people have the same image of all primates. This generic ape or monkey swings through the trees, eats bananas and lives in a small social group of about 20-30 individuals. Few people imagine monkeys that sleep on sheer cliffs. Even fewer folks think a primate could eat grass. And only a handful of people have ever observed over 1,000 wild primates living together in a single social group. Through my Fulbright grant, I had the fortune of spending time with a peculiar primate species that exhibits all three of these behaviors. During a 10-month stay in Ethiopia, I studied the behavior of geladas (Theropithecus gelada).

Geladas are known by their nickname, the “bleeding heart baboon.” Geladas are not, however, true baboons. While baboons eat meat, fruit, and nuts, geladas are the only primate species to feed nearly entirely on grass (over 90% of their diet). Their “bleeding heart baboon” nickname comes from the unique bare patch of skin located on the chest and neck of both male and female geladas. In females, this patch changes color from light pink to deep red with beaded vesicles and is thought to be a visual indicator of estrous. The male chest patch is likely a sexually selected signal, as chest color varies across males and is associated with dominance status.

My Fulbright grant allowed me to conduct dissertation research on the social and hormonal factors that influence bachelor geladas’ behavior living in all-male groups. In these groups, males may form bonds with other males that may persist through adult life. Young bachelors are often smaller than dominant leader males and may cooperate to overthrow leaders in order to mate with females. My research examines the nature of these relationships, particularly if young males are more likely to cooperate with their buddies when fighting leader males. Additionally, I collected feces to understand stress hormone level variation among bachelor males. These data will allow me to understand the relationship between stress and social bonding among male geladas, and is important for an understanding of how human friendships evolved.

While geladas may have been the primate of interest for my thesis, they were not the only primates involved in my Fulbright experience. I worked closely with many humans as well during my time in Ethiopia. Since I worked at Simien Mountains National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), I lived with the park scouts and their families. I worked with a field assistant, Esheti Jejaw, and trained him in various scientific methods. In turn, he taught me how to speak Amharic, make injera (traditional Ethiopian bread), and navigate the cliffs of the Simien Mountains. Finally, my relationship with the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa allowed me to speak to high school students about my research and conserving Ethiopian biodiversity. I hope that at least one of these students pursues a future in wildlife biology, but I’ll settle for eco-minded doctors, lawyers, and future leaders of Ethiopia.

  • If you are interested in applying for a Fulbright study/research grant, I recommend you always be mindful of the Fulbright Program’s mission to promote mutual understanding between the U.S. and the people of other countries. Find creative ways to incorporate this into your research plan, even if you study plants, birds, or primates. You should be foremost an intellectual ambassador, and secondarily, a researcher.
  • If you are currently at a university, seek out faculty members that have had Fulbright experiences. Get to know them and ask them for reference letters. Do not think, however, that having a recommendation from a Fulbright alumnus guarantees a grant. It is far more important to have recommenders that know you both personally and academically.
  • Finally, your research proposal should be something that can be accomplished within an academic year. Think of it as the first step to a larger project that incorporates the Fulbright Program’s goals. You cannot cure diseases or save entire ecosystems in less than a year, but you can make significant progress and impact lives that will last well beyond your grant tenure.

Top photo: David Joseph Pappano, 2010-2011, Ethiopia (left), with his field assistant, Esheti Jejaw

David Joseph Pappano, 2010-2011, Ethiopia, speaking to high school students about his Fulbright research at the “Yes Youth Can!” conference held at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa on April 30, 2011

A male gelada looks out over the Simien Mountains, Ethiopia

U.S. Fulbright

Ethiopic Manuscript Culture and Its European Analogues, By Sean Winslow, 2008-2009, Ethiopia

August 31, 2009

As a scholar of the development of book technology, I have spent a lot of time studying physical objects and wondering about the mindset craftsmen had while producing books in the Ancient and Medieval periods. Since the production of manuscript books in Europe died out centuries ago, it is impossible to ask the producers about their techniques. The tradition of manuscript production that exists (in a reduced state) in the Islamic world is different enough from the one practiced during historical Christendom to limit its utility for the study of traditional European bookmaking. That is why I was excited, during the course of my research, to discover that manuscript bookmaking still survives in the Christian highlands of Ethiopia; it was simply a matter of getting the time and funds to go.

My Fulbright research project, Ethiopic Manuscript Culture and Its European Analogues, documents the remaining craft and tradition of book production in Ethiopia, and applies that knowledge more broadly to the history of book production in Europe and the Mediterranean world. Ethiopia was isolated from the Muslim conquests until the 20th century. As a result, it maintains a largely 4th-5th century style of book production. Additionally, it served as a bridge between the Mediterranean and Arab worlds: the traditional Islamic codex (like the modern book format) is based upon a form learned from Ethiopia, so comparative codicology (the study of books as physical objects) in the two traditions could help shed light on historical innovations in book production.

Based upon my interviews, I have attempted to gain insight into the mindsets of traditionally trained scribes and parchmenters, even learning a bit about magic writing and scroll-production along the way! The interviews have taken me through a large swath of the country; from towns to the remote countryside, bringing me into contact with many interesting people, some of whom I have interviewed and photographed. There has also been a great synergy between my field research and photography.

I had to apply twice to be awarded a Fulbright grant, so my primary advice to applicants would be, “Be persistent.” The second time I applied, I spent a lot more time preparing by briefing my referees on the nature of the project and allowing more time for revising application documents. I think the time spent working on the application, the additional research and the language preparation I undertook all helped. I would encourage potential grantees to start early and to take their time during the application stage.


Marigeta (a type of priest) Birhanu decorates a leather cover on a modern printed book.



Kes (Priest) Fente writing on parchment: traditional scribes produce parchment books using their knee as a writing surface.





The hands of Marigeta Haile Selassie using a bamboo pen to write characters of the native syllabary (called ‘Fidel’) of the Ge’ez language used by the Ethiopian church.




Top photo: Sean Winslow taking advantage of dry season conditions to travel around Tigray, the Northern Province of Ethiopia; Sean’s research focuses on the technological development of the book. During his Fulbright project, Ethiopic Manuscript Culture and Its European Analogues, he interviewed Ethiopia’s last Christian scribes to gain insight into the mindsets of traditional book producers.