USAID-Funded Scientist's Agriculture Initiative Wins 2009 World Food Prize, Improves Food Supply for Millions in Sub-Saharan Africa

For Immediate Release

Thursday, October 15, 2009
USAID Press Office

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A Purdue University professor, whose research was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), received the 2009 World Food Prize Oct. 15 for his concerted effort in the development of drought and parasitic weed resistant varieties of sorghum which has increased the food supply to millions in sub-Saharan Africa.

The 2009 World Food Prize was awarded to Dr. Gebisa Ejeta for developing sorghum plant hybrids that yield three to four times more than local varieties; dramatically increasing the production and availability of one of the world's five principal grains.

"Hunger is one of humankind's oldest problems," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she announced the food prize selection in June. "Dr. Ejeta…reminds us of the international approach we need to this problem. We don't believe any country can do it on its own, but we believe the United States has a particular opportunity to lead and to make the changes that we have outlined in our policy."

Ejeta's work was a part of the USAID-supported Sorghum, Millet and Other Grains (SMOG) Collaborative Research Support Program and its predecessor programs that have been implemented by the University of Nebraska.

"On behalf of USAID, I congratulate Dr. Ejeta on this momentous occasion," said USAID's acting administrator Alonzo Fulgham. "We are proud to have played a role in this important work; the impact of which will be felt for generations to come. This award is a fine example of how USAID has tapped into the resources available at land-grant universities and it illustrates U.S. leadership in agricultural research."

According to the World Food Prize Foundation, Dr. Ejeta's personal journey led him from a childhood in a one-room thatched hut in rural Ethiopia to the height of scientific acclaim as a distinguished professor, plant breeder, and geneticist at Purdue University. He initially planned to become and engineer but his mother convinced him he'd do more good for the world if he studied agriculture.

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Last updated: February 28, 2012

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