This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
Sorghum is an important grain for Africa. Millions of
Africans have more to eat because of Gebisa Ejeta. The Ethiopian scientist developed
sorghum seeds that can resist long dry periods. The seeds can also resist the Striga
weed, a big cause of crop failures in Africa.
Now his work has earned him this year's World Food
Prize from the World Food Prize Foundation in Des Moines, Iowa. Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton made the announcement last week in Washington. She
pointed out that Professor Ejeta did not just develop the seeds. He also worked
to get them to farmers.
He will receive the two hundred fifty thousand dollar
award at a ceremony in October. He is only the second African to win the prize
since it was established in nineteen eighty-six. Monty Jones, a rice expert
from Sierra Leone, was the winner in two thousand four.
Gebisa Ejeta is a professor at Purdue University in
Indiana. Over the years, he has worked with farmers and seed companies and developed
more than eighty seed types for Africa.
In the early nineteen eighties, Professor Ejeta developed
the first sorghum hybrid seeds. These resisted drought and led to a major
increase in production.
Drought is not the only enemy. Striga is a parasitic
weed that Africans commonly call witchweed. The plant attacks sorghum and other
crops and steals water and nutrients from the roots.
In the nineteen nineties, Gebisa Ejeta and another
Purdue researcher, Larry Butler, identified the complex relationships between Striga
and sorghum plants. That finding led to the development of seeds resistant to
both Striga and drought.
Gebisa Ejeta was raised in a one-room hut in a rural
village in west-central Ethiopia. His mother wanted him to get an education. He
walked twenty kilometers to school in a neighboring town. He left home on
Sunday nights and returned on Friday.
For secondary school, he attended an agricultural and
technical school. It was established by Oklahoma State University under an
American government program. From there he received an invitation to study at
Purdue, where he earned a doctoral degree.
But Professor Ejeta has never forgotten his African
roots. Today he encourages other scientists to turn their attention to Africa's
And that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report,
written by Jerilyn Watson. Transcripts and MP3s of our reports are at
voaspecialenglish.com. I’m Doug Johnson.