Gebreyes Haile

A water engineer educated in England and other parts of the world, Gebreyes Hail has personally overseen 150 water diversion projects, which have fed over a million people. In many parts of the country he is known as “Bread Gebreyes,” and his work has been compared to that of Mother Theresa.

Gebreyes is an amazing individual who is very deeply and sincerely committed to helping his people escape the prison of poverty and dependency. Appropriately, the name “Gebreyes” means “servant of God.” This hero puts his heart and soul into every project, manages resources as if they were his own, and provides judicious stewardship at every turn.

When Gebreyes retired from his distinguished career after 19 years with Lutheran World Federation Ethiopia, it was noted that he had managed the construction of 15 earth dams and terraces and harnessed more than 120 rivers for irrigation purposes. In addition, he helped the planting of millions of tree seedlings and enabled some 150,000 farmers to become self-reliant by developing 35,000 hectares of land. Some 85% of the development activities carried out under his authority are currently providing adequate services to the locals.

Early History

After earning a degree from the engineering college under Addis Ababa University, Gebreyes helped establish the Tendaho Agriculture Development Enterprise (TADE) with a former employer. He started his job at TADE as deputy manager of engineering works, the first Ethiopian in the enterprise’s history to be a resident engineer. In addition to gaining practical experience, Gebreyes was able to communicate and share ideas with colleagues. He also earned a distinguished reputation for conducting studies on irrigation development and flood prevention.

During his time at TADE, Gebreyes oversaw over 10,000 employees. He was also nominated for an honourary doctoral degree in Southampton, England, in 1968. Other accreditations Gebreyes has earned through his career include a master’s degree in engineering from Addis Ababa University, an advanced diploma in irrigation and practice from Seoul University, an advanced diploma in water utilization study and flood prevention from Novisdad and Wagnigen universities in Yugoslovia and Holland, and an advanced diploma in management from Oxford University in England.

Due to his full commitment and dedication to averting the flooding of the Tendaho farm, his commitment to creating jobs for locals, and his tireless efforts to help develop TADE, he earned the nickname “Engineer Gebreyes” from locals.

TADE earned the country much foreign currency until the junta Derg regime nationalized it. Due to various adverse situations caused by the military government, Gebreyes decided to move to Addis Ababa. Following this move, he was assigned to other government agricultural farms and an endowment coordination commission. Due to instability and a steady decline in his employment conditions, Gebreyes ultimately took up employment with Lutheran World Federation in Ethiopia.

Aura Water Diversion

Gebreyes conceptualized the Aura Water Diversion Project long before it was built. Many told him it could not be done. Despite the skepticism, Gebreyes and his Support for Sustainable Development team succeeded in creating those first water diversion projects in the Afar Region. For the first time in history, pastoralists were turned into agro-pastoralists. Today, there are many of these projects in Ethiopia.

Gebreyes is well known, well respected, and trusted by both the bureaucrats and nomadic tribesmen-turned-farmers. Through his expertise and partnerships with numerous organizations, deserts are turned into oases, famine is held at bay, and corn grows high.

Appropriately, the name “Gebreyes” means “servant of God.”
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