Conserving our planet's botanical resources and ecosystems

From a remote village to Bill Gates neighborhood

TREE Research Associate, Worku Mulut, Recalls his Roots

We were a family of twelve, seven boys and three girls and grew up in a village called Kersole, South Wollo, and Ethiopia. The land tenure system during Haile Silassie regime condemned us to be tenants where a fourth of our produce had to go to landlords. It didn’t get better in the regime that replaced the Monarchy system. Plots were small and frost frequently used to kill our crops as the highlands got too cold from October through December. Consequently, we were typical rural family blighted with food insecurity and livelihood scarcity.

Our parents realized that such large family could not be sustained on those small plots and hence decided to send us to school. The initial goal was to be able to write and read. I and my elder brother first, then the next two, and so on until the last child registration was insured. We used to divide our time for education and farming and manage the meager resources frugally.

Parents that never set foot in school have seen all their children graduating in Physics, Computer Science, Ecology, Chemistry and Math at BSc, MSc and PhD level. Our father did not live long to enjoy the success of his family but our mother is still alive and cherish our accomplishment.

We proved poverty is neither in our genes nor in our stars. We stretched our hands and touched the sky. Through the miracle of education, we made poverty history at the household level. So much so that four of us made it from a remote village to Bill Gates neighborhood.

Let the world know we are courageous family eliminating both illiteracy and low standard of living in just less than two decades of our lives. But our mission won’t be complete until the underserved community we left behind is lifted out of poverty.

Nurtured in rural setting under economic hardship, we know what works and what does not. To this end I and my brothers at Microsoft are changing to a higher gear, firing in all cylinders to lift our fellow countrymen out of poverty. In a longer time horizon, we are setting goals to tackle food insecurity, illiteracy, environmental degradation, disease and abject poverty back home. As part of this strategy, we are actively supporting Tree Foundation project to save Orthodox Church forests in Northern Ethiopia.

Worku Mulat, PhD, Tree Foundation Research Associate