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Farmer at heart

- Reshma Lakha-Singh

Professor Fethi Ahmed has been appointed as the new Head of the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Sciences (GAES).

Unassuming, unpretentious, humble and with his fingers deep into the heart of the earth.

His love for all things green and the future of the planet is what led Ahmed to take an interest in Botany in his native land of Sudan. His career path grew very quickly over the years, having traversed across continents securing further academic qualifications and experience. Ahmed is now a specialist in environmental systems, environmental applications of geographical information systems, remote sensing, spatial analysis and modeling.

Before his arrival at Wits, he served as head of the Department of Geography, Environmental Management and Energy Studies at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Prior to UJ, he was the head of the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He completed his Honours degree in Botany at the University of Khartoum, which was aligned to the University of London and then went off to Cambridge University to complete his masters and PhD.

“I returned home thereafter to lecture at Khartoum, but the UK beckoned me once more, and I landed up at the University of East Anglia in Norwich as a researcher. That was 15 years ago. Now the South African soil has won my heart,” says Ahmed.

He has over 18 years of research experience, an National Research Foundation (NRF) C2-rating and has authored and co-authored over 65 publications, including peer-reviewed articles in local and international journals, conference proceedings, a book and four chapters in books. Ahmed is a member of several professional societies. His research has been supported with multiple grants from local and major funding agencies, including the NRF, industry and the European Union. He has also supervised over 55 PhDs and masters students thus far.

“I am very pleased to be heading up such an excellent School and team. We have one of the leading Geography departments in South Africa, and the best Archaeology department in Africa. The Rock Art Research Institute is the only one of its kind in the world. It’s easy to succeed when you are in the midst of excellence,” says a proud Ahmed.

Together with his team, Ahmed has developed a five year strategic plan for the School, and a key area of focus is new avenues in which to collaborate, research and publish with other disciplines at Wits.

While living out his dream of leading the GAES to new frontiers, Ahmed also quietly dreams of one day, when he retires, to settle down along the Nile River, farming to his heart’s content.