The 2009 World Food Prize will be awarded to Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, a native of Ethiopia and a Distinguished Professor of Agronomy at Purdue University, for his breakthrough work that illustrates “what can be achieved when cutting-edge technology and international cooperation in agriculture are used to uplift and empower the world’s most vulnerable people.” The announcement was made Thursday at a ceremony at the U.S. State Department.
According to the World Food Prize announcement:
With the local importance of sorghum in the human diet (made into breads, porridges, and beverages), and the vast potential of dryland agriculture in Sudan, Dr. Ejeta’s drought-tolerant hybrids brought dramatic gains in crop productivity and also catalyzed the initiation of a commercial sorghum seed industry in Sudan.
A scientist who grew up in a thatch hut in Ethiopia and later learned how to conquer a weed that plagues African agriculture is this year’s winner of the World Food Prize.
Gebisa Ejeta, a long-time agronomist at Purdue University, developed a variety of sorghum resistant to Striga, or witchweed, a parasitic plant that often destroys the vital food crop. Earlier, Ejeta came up with a high-yielding, drought-resistant version of sorghum.
Combining the resistance to drought and the weed allowed Ejeta’s sorghum to yield up to four times as much grain as the traditional varieties.
The prize will be given to Dr. Ejeta at a ceremony Oct. 15 at the Iowa Capitol.