Ethiopian scientistwas named on Thursday as the winner of
the 2009 World Food Prize in an event at the U.S. State Department.
Ejeta, a faculty member at Purdue University in the Midwestern U.S.
state of Indiana, was honored for his work on drought and
weed-resistant varieties of sorghum.
Ejeta is only the second African to win
the Food Prize since its creation in 1986 by Nobel Peace Laureate
Norman Borlaug, the American agronomist credited with starting a
so-called "Green Revolution" with high-yield wheat varieties.
Ethiopian geneticist and seed-breeder, who joined the Purdue University
faculty in 1984, is being honored for his work in developing strains of
sorghum that are resistant to drought and the parasitic weed Striga,
which has been a plague to farmers throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
who was not present at the State Department event, will receive the
award on October 15 in a ceremony by the World Food Prize Foundation
in Des Moines, Iowa.
The president of the foundation, former
U.S. ambassador to Cambodia Kenneth Quinn, said Ejeta's work with
sorghum has benefited millions of people in Africa and beyond.
developed and introduced the first sorghum hybrid in Africa in the
early 1980s, which was drought tolerant and produced significantly
higher yields," said Quinn. "In the 1990s, he conquered the greatest
biological constraint to cereal production in Africa - the deadly weed
Striga. Having discovered the bio-chemical basis of Striga's parasitic
relationship with sorghum, our laureate's breeding program at Purdue
produced many sorghum varieties resistant to drought and to Striga with
yields 10 times greater than local varieties."
The World Food
Prize chief was joined on the podium by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom
Vilsack and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who stressed the Obama
administration's commitment to attack world hunger, which affects an
estimated one billion people.
She noted that in addition to
developing new sorghum strains, Ejeta worked in India and Sudan on ways
to get his improved seeds into the hands of farmers, underscoring the
need for a comprehensive approach to repairing what Clinton called a
broken global supply chain for food.
"The Obama administration
is committed to providing leadership in developing a new global
approach to hunger," she said. "For too long, our primary response has
been to send emergency aid when the crisis is at its worst. This saves
lives, but doesn't address hunger's root causes. It is at best a
short-term fix. So we will support the creation of effective,
sustainable farming systems in regions around the world where current
methods are not working."
The World Food Prize, judged by a
council of advisers that includes former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter
and George H.W. Bush, carries a $250,000 award. The previous African
winner was plant breeder Monty Jones of Sierra Leone who, with Chinese
colleague Yuan Longping, was honored in 2004 for work on high-yielding