Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Professor Gebisa Ejeta with the 2009 World Food Prize from the World Food Prize Foundation. The presentation was made Thursday morning at the State Department. The award was created to further the work of the Green Revolution started by Dr. Norman Borlaug.
Professor Gebisa spoke with Konjit Taye of the Amharic service and Namo Dandi of the Afan Oromo staff.
Gebisa received the prestigious award and a $250,000 cash award for developing sorghum hybrids resistant to drought and the devastating Striga weed. His hybrids have dramatically increased the production and availability of one of the world's five principal grains. They have, as ingredients in breads, porridges and beverages, greatly enhanced the food supply of hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa.
Gebisa, who grew up in a rural village in west-central Ethiopia, attended Jimma Agricultural and Technical School. Alemaya College. At Purdue University, his graduate school advisor invited him to study the sorghum plant for his doctorate in plant breeding and genetics. He later became a faculty member at Purdue, where today he holds a distinguished professorship. He developed the first hybrid sorghum varieties for Africa, which were drought-tolerant and high-yielding, while working in Sudan with the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.
Gebisa's dedication to helping poor farmers feed themselves and their families and rise out of poverty propelled his work in leveraging the gains of his hybrid breeding breakthrough, according to the World Food Prize Foundation. He urged the establishment of structures to monitor production, processing, certification, and marketing of hybrid seed and farmer-education programs in the use of fertilizers, soil and water conservation, and other supportive crop management practices.
He has released over 70 parental lines for the U.S. seed industry's use in commercial sorghum hybrids in both their domestic and international markets. Gebisa's scientific breakthroughs in breeding drought-tolerant and Striga-resistant sorghum have been combined with his persistent efforts to foster economic development and the empowerment of subsistence farmers through the creation of agricultural enterprises in rural Africa.