Ethiopian American Named 2009 World Food Prize Laureate (Video)

Above: The 2009 World Food Prize has been given to Dr. Gebisa
Ejeta of Ethiopia, a professor and plant geneticist at Purdue Univ.

(WASHINGTON, D.C., USA) – Dr. Gebisa Ejeta of Ethiopia has been named winner of the $250,000 World Food Prize for his monumental contributions in the production of sorghum, one of the world’s five principal cereal grains, which have dramatically enhanced the food supply of hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was the featured speaker as Dr. Ejeta was announced as the 2009 Laureate at a ceremony at the U.S. State Department on June 11 that also featured Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, World Food Prize President Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, and World Food Prize Chairman John Ruan III, among others.

Dr. Ejeta’s personal journey would lead 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. His work with sorghum, which is a staple in the diet of 500 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa, began in Ethiopia in the 1970s. Working in Sudan in the early 1980s, he developed Hageen Dura-1, the first ever commercial hybrid sorghum in Africa. This hybrid variety was tolerant to drought and out-yielded traditional varieties by up to 150 percent.

Dr. Ejeta next turned his attention to battling the scourge of Striga, a deadly parasitic weed which devastates farmers’ crops and severely limits food availability. Working with a colleague at Purdue University, he discovered the biochemical basis of Striga’s relationship with sorghum, and was able to produce many sorghum varieties resistant to both drought and Striga. In 1994, eight tons of Dr. Ejeta’s drought and Striga-resistant sorghum seeds were distributed to Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. Yield increases were as much as four times the yield of local varieties, even in severe drought areas.

“By ridding Africa of the greatest biological impediment to food production, Dr. Ejeta has put himself in the company of some of the greatest researchers and scientists recognized by this award over the past 23 years,” said Vilsack. “The Obama Administration is inspired by the tireless efforts of Dr. Ejeta has demonstrated in the battle to eliminate food insecurity and is committed to employing a comprehensive approach to tackle the scourge of world hunger.”

Dr. Gebisa Ejeta

Dr. Ejeta’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. He has led his colleagues in working with national and local authorities and nongovernmental agencies so that smallholder farmers and rural entrepreneurs can catalyze efforts to improve crop productivity, strengthen nutritional security, increase the value of agricultural products, and boost the profitability of agricultural enterprise – thus fostering profound impacts on lives and livelihoods on broader scale across the African continent.

“Dr. Ejeta’s accomplishments in improving sorghum illustrate 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,” added Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, founder of the World Food Prize. “His life is as an inspiration for young scientists around the world.”

The 2009 World Food Prize will be formally presented to Dr. Ejeta at a ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol on October 15, 2009. The ceremony will be held as part of the World Food Prize’s 2009 Borlaug Dialogue, which focuses on “Food, Agriculture and National Security in a Globalized World.” Further information about the Laureate Award Ceremony and Symposium can be found at

Clinton Speaks at 2009 World Food Prize Announcement Ceremony

Young Gebisa Ejeta as a grad student at Purdue in 1974

Born in 1950, Gebisa Ejeta grew up in a one-room thatched hut with a
mud floor, in a rural village in west-central Ethiopia.

His mother’s deep belief in education and her struggle to provide her son with access to local teachers and schools provided the young Ejeta with the means to rise out of poverty and hardship. His mother made arrangements for him to attend school in a neighboring town. Walking 20 kilometers every Sunday night to attend school during the week and then back home on Friday, he rapidly ascended through eight grades and passed the national exam qualifying him to enter high school.

Ejeta’s high academic standing earned him financial assistance and entrance to the secondary-level Jimma Agricultural and Technical School, which had been established by Oklahoma State University under the U.S. government’s Point Four Program. After graduating with distinction, Ejeta entered Alemaya College (also established by OSU and supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development) in eastern Ethiopia. He received his bachelor’s degree in plant science in 1973.

In 1973, his college mentor introduced Ejeta to a renowned sorghum researcher, Dr. John Axtell of Purdue University, who invited him to assist in collecting sorghum species from around the country. Dr. Axtell was so impressed with Ejeta that he invited him to become his graduate student at Purdue University. This invitation came at a time when Ethiopia was about to enter a long period of political instability which would keep Ejeta from returning to his home country for nearly 25 years.

Ejeta entered Purdue in 1974, earning his Ph.D. in plant breeding and genetics. He later became a faculty member at Purdue, where today he holds a distinguished professorship. Read more at

78 Responses to “Ethiopian American Named 2009 World Food Prize Laureate (Video)”

  1. 1 Zeleke Jun 11th, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    I am proud of you! Excellent, I have got this message from other scientists who admire you.

  2. 2 Yayeh Jun 11th, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    I am proud of him

  3. 3 bement Jun 11th, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    I am very excited to hear about Professor Ejeta’s Award. I hope this work will encourage others to get into educational fields that will change the lives of poor people.

  4. 4 Gemtuzumab ozogamycin Jun 11th, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Genius! Keep up the great work and congratulations!

  5. 5 Henock (Atlanta) Jun 11th, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Way to go Prof! Congratulations!

  6. 6 Gebre Jun 11th, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Well done! May God bless you!

  7. 7 workalemahu Jun 11th, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    professor congratulations. I am proud of you and keep it up and God bless you.

  8. 8 Bilacho Jun 11th, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Excellent achievment, Prof. Ejeta! Bravo!!

  9. 9 Mehret Jun 11th, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    You have made all Ethiopians proud. I pray that the children of Ethiopia will follow in your footsteps.


  10. 10 Wondoson Jun 11th, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Here’s to the excellent work you’ve done…Here’s to the fine prize you’ve won. And here’s to the future you’ve done now! Congratulations!

  11. 11 Mulatu Wakjira Jun 11th, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Wow! A wonderful job! An excellent image for Ethiopian scientists. Congratulations! YOU did a great job.

  12. 12 Samuel Jun 11th, 2009 at 5:46 pm


    I am humbled and inspired by your great achievements. You are an outstanding example of what happens when talent meets determination.

    May your light keep shining and your outreach deepened and broadened.

    God bless you.

  13. 13 Lammi Jun 11th, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Good job. It gives hope to our people.

  14. 14 dfr Jun 11th, 2009 at 9:20 pm


  15. 15 woy_good Jun 11th, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    A true hero. Here is a YT link to hear him speak

  16. 16 baye Jun 12th, 2009 at 12:53 am

    hojii guddaa hojjatte!rabbi siyaagargaaru jabaadhu!

  17. 17 Damitu Jun 12th, 2009 at 1:08 am

    GREAT. Pride of Oromo People

  18. 18 Bemnet Alemayehu Jun 12th, 2009 at 2:36 am

    Congratulation !!! Genius son of Ethiopia !!!

  19. 19 Fikremariam G Jun 12th, 2009 at 3:33 am

    Very promising for others to go ahead in research! It is an excellent vision for African, especially Ethiopian scientists! Born for all; work for all; great call for scientists!

  20. 20 Nemera Gebeyehu Jun 12th, 2009 at 6:46 am

    I am really proud of you, you had contributed a lot towards the struggle against hunger in Africa. Jabaadhu!!

  21. 21 Fikadu Reta Jun 12th, 2009 at 6:53 am

    It’s very great accomplishment and can inspire young researchers in Africa!!!

  22. 22 kiromyit Jun 12th, 2009 at 7:52 am

    You are the pride of not only me but also your country and its people. May God bless you!!!

  23. 23 Geremew Wakjira Jun 12th, 2009 at 8:46 am

    What a wonderful news!! Thanks to God who helped you to succeed. We proud of you! I believe that at least you achieved what you have planned! Sabni kee siin boonaa jira gammadi!

    Baayyee si jaallanna!

  24. 24 Tseday Jun 12th, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Great work and very proud of your accomplishments. On behalf of all gluten-intolerant people who can’t eat wheat, rye, or barley, I must also say “Thank God!” for your work on increasing staples such as sorghum. Very grateful!


  25. 25 J. Horaa Jun 12th, 2009 at 9:14 am

    I’m so glad to hear such a great success story! Praise the Lord, again Oromia brought up more hero to the world stage. Young Oromo generation, never give up by the current situation and follow the foot step of our hero prof. Gebisa Ejeta.

    Prof. We are proud of you! May God bless you!

    Jabbadhaa yaa saba koo! Waaqayyo nu gargaaraatii.

  26. 26 ibsaf Jun 12th, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Great success! Congratulations!!

  27. 27 Begudu Jun 12th, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Congratulation Dr Ejeta, I am very proud to hear this news. You are an inspiration to all of us.


  28. 28 Ayele Bekerie Jun 12th, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Dear Tadias,

    I am overjoyed by Professor Gebisa Ejeta’s winning of the 2009 World Food Prize. Gebisa is a remarkable scientist and wonderful human being. I studied with him at the Alemaya Agricultural College (now Haramaya University) in early 70s. He was one year ahead of me. As students we looked up to him, for he was an exemplary and brilliant student. It is also important to note that Gebisa was the tallest student on Alemaya Campus. He used his height quite effectively by also excelling on the basketball court.

    Congratulations Gebisa! This is a wonderful news for all of us.


  29. 29 Biruk Woldeyohannes Jun 12th, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Great Job indeed, Scientist Gebisa Ejeta. My appreciation for what you have done specially for Africa and the poor world.

  30. 30 Yonas Jun 12th, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Congratulations. Determination makes success. I hope your work will soon seen in your native country as well

    Yonas, Holland

  31. 31 Dereje Jun 12th, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Congradulations prof.

    More to come from you and other young Ethiopians.

  32. 32 Kormee Jun 12th, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Ishoo baga milkoofte!

  33. 33 Tiruneh Jun 12th, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    I am very proud you!

  34. 34 Dibaba Jun 12th, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    A true Servant of Humanity!! Waka Si ha ebbisuu.

  35. 35 Kedist Geremaw Jun 12th, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Wow! What an accomplishment,This is a prime example of what Hard work and dedication brings to one who is focused. As a young person growing up in Ethiopia your mother was besides you navigating your path, she deserves this award as well.

    It is my prayer that your hard work brings the needed remedy to eradicate hunger throughout the world.

    Kedist Geremaw
    Washington, DC

  36. 36 Meaza Jun 12th, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    Congratulation!!! Well done!!!!!

  37. 37 oda Jun 13th, 2009 at 1:26 am

    Oromiyaan baga ilmoo akka kee qabatee Dr.Gabissa jebadhuu rabii sii haa gargaruu

  38. 38 tesfay erob Jun 14th, 2009 at 4:06 am

    Congratulations! As an Ethiopian, I’m over the moon that you have accomplished this amazing mission. You are an international hero.

  39. 39 Abebe Jun 15th, 2009 at 1:39 am

    Congratulation to Prof. Gabisa Ejeta. We are proud of you!! Keep it up and may GOD bless you and your family!! For other Ethiopian Scientists especially at research center and higher learning institution this may be encouraging.

  40. 40 Yared Tewolde Jun 15th, 2009 at 1:50 am

    hey prof. i am proude of you and God bless you!

  41. 41 Kennaa Jun 15th, 2009 at 2:58 am

    Baga Waaqayyo si gargaare ! Itti fufui! Abdii uummata keenyaati!

  42. 42 Keba Jun 15th, 2009 at 4:51 am

    Well done,professor congratulations. I am proud of you.

  43. 43 Geleta Jun 15th, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Congratulations Dr Gebisa! Baga Gammadde!

    This is great news for all Ethiopians.
    What more can make you proud than a discovery that can help eradicate world hunger! This is science at its best!
    Dr Gebisa, I hope you can travel back home and hold lectures at some of the schools and colleges to inspire our young students.

    Si haa milkeessu, baay’ee Galatoomi!

  44. 44 segni Jun 15th, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    I have no words to express my joy for you. I wish u all success.

  45. 45 Amsalu N, Jun 16th, 2009 at 5:41 am

    Nice to hear this news. Congratulations Prof Gebisa!! I hope he and his colleagues will come up again with new findings.

  46. 46 Girma Jun 16th, 2009 at 5:48 am

    Waw! I have no enough words to express my joy. What joy can people like us want to hear than such news that have profound contribution to eliminating hunger and suffering of the poorest! It is God that helped you reach the success, Glory to His Name!

  47. 47 Wosene Jun 16th, 2009 at 11:45 am


    You inspire young scientists who aspire to help their nation at most.

  48. 48 Nunu Tsegaye Jun 16th, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    I am so proud of you! Keep up the good work. You are going to be an example to my children and my grandkids. God bless you! You are an excellent professor.

    -Nunu from cedar falls iowa

  49. 49 Girmachew Abate Jun 16th, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Congratulations Professor. We are very proud of You.

  50. 50 Kinfe-Michael Negash Jun 19th, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Congratulations! Professor Gebisa. Keep up the excellent work.

  51. 51 HY Balicha Jun 20th, 2009 at 1:47 am

    Great achievement! Hope to African People. God Bless You professor

  52. 52 Dechassa Jun 20th, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    This is one of the greatest works to initiate young scientists of Ethiopians in general and Oromos in particular to work hard for such a glorious success.

    Congratulations Prof. Gebisa !

  53. 53 Stephen Mugo Jun 21st, 2009 at 6:06 am

    Great news indeed. This was long overdue considering Prof Ejeta’s long and very productive carrer. Once again congratulations to you Gebisa.

    Stephen Mugo

  54. 54 Tokkichoo Jun 25th, 2009 at 2:36 am

    realy, your golden success has made us proud! in particular,ur achievement is a valuable signpost for young oromo (Ethiopians, Africans, Europeans, Americans and all others people of the world) scholars & students of higher educational institutions.waaqayyo ammas dabalee daddabalee siifis ta’e saba keef injifannoo haa gonffachiisu! i promise to repeat ur success,please encourage me! thank u.
    Yunbarsittii Finfinnee irraa.

  55. 55 Mekonnen Jul 3rd, 2009 at 6:20 am

    That’s Great! Congratulations Prof. Gebisa! It’s really a commendable task and your effort is Exemplary for African Scientists to eradicate poverty and hunger by conducting researches which address the real problem of their people at grassroots level.

  56. 56 Almaz egetta Jul 14th, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    You have made Ethiopia and your family proud. It was not easy but you made it. Prof. Gebisa your genius that is gift from God. Congratulations.

  57. 57 al Jul 17th, 2009 at 8:18 am

    I am very proud of you professor. Keep up the good work. America has given a great chance to a genius. Within the next few years, from all over the world there will be many more Ethiopians and their children that will come forth in support for the betterment of the world. We were raised to serve God and helping all humankind around the world, and improving our earth is a mission we will not take lightly. May God bless America and her people; may God bless Ethiopia and our whole world.

  58. 58 bayyanaa Jul 28th, 2009 at 9:07 am

    baga nu gammachiifte.baga nu boonsite.
    siin boonna.

  59. 59 Ass. Prof. Dagnachew Legesse Jul 29th, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Congratulation Prof. Gebisa. It is great to arrive at this stage from null. You will be an example for all Ethiopians. You showed us the way and we will follow you.

  60. 60 Dereje Regassa Gobana Jul 31st, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    This emplies to me that there are potential scientists in Ethiopia that bear a lasting solution to poverty in the world especially Africa given conducive working environmnets

  61. 61 Shobor Gudeat Aug 7th, 2009 at 1:54 am

    Congrats.Proffesor Gebisa. You came up with an amazing finding. Continue ahead.

  62. 62 Kasahun Abdisa Aug 13th, 2009 at 6:35 am

    you left a true, bright, and vissionary line for all Africans to walk a long.

    Onneen Afrikootaa siin…..

  63. 63 mersha Aug 24th, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    This is what we as Ethiopian literates are supposed do to pay back to those so poor and innocent people of ours who still live in poverty.

  64. 64 Guest Oct 11th, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    People, it always makes us proud when someone from Ethiopia wins a prestigious prize- especially when it has been hard worked for. But there are other factors at play here. In this case, we the people have a right to know about the food that we are eating, and in this particular case, it is a question of the politics behind GM food. Questions we MUST ask:
    1)Is Africa as a whole being pressured by multinational corporations to produce GM foods? If so why?
    2)What are the long term effects of eating GM foods?

    “Africa is rapidly becoming a focal point for multinational crop and chemical corporations clearing the way for the extended uptake of their products and technologies. In particular, African governments are facing enormous pressure to endorse and adopt genetically modified (GM) crops.”
    Bans and restrictions imposed by African countries on GM imports

    Algeria introduced a ban on the import, distribution, commercialisation and use of GM plant material in December 2000
    Angola introduced a ban on imports of unmilled GM food aid in April 2004
    Benin has taken measures to prevent imports of GM food aid, with a moratorium on import of GMOs until national legislation comes into force
    Lesotho has permitted the distribution of non-milled GM food aid, with a public warning that the grain should be consumed and not used for cultivation
    Malawi has had a ban on importing unmilled GM crops since 2002
    Mozambique’s government is prepared to accept GM food aid provided that maize is milled prior to distribution
    Namibian government rejected GM maize in 2002 and received wheat for food aid instead
    Nigeria’s government prepared to accept GM food aid provided maize is milled prior to distribution
    Sudan banned the import of GM food aid during May 2003, but issued a series of temporary waivers under pressure by the US
    Swaziland permitted the distribution of non-milled GM food aid, with a public warning that the grain should be consumed and not used for cultivation
    Zambia refused to accept GM grain donated as food aid in 2002
    Zimbabwe is prepared to accept GM food aid provided the maize is milled prior to distribution [

  65. 65 alem haile Oct 16th, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    I am really proud you! It is good news for all. Keep up the great work!

  66. 66 kamil Ahmed Oct 18th, 2009 at 4:57 am



  67. 67 Mikias A. Oct 18th, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Great man

    Thank you for your determination. you are one of the few unique genius mind in the world, that makes me get up in the morning. You truly inspire young minds to work hard and become a positive influence to the world. Congratulation on your success you deserve it. Your mother will be very proud.
    God bless you

  68. 68 Meron Oct 30th, 2009 at 5:08 am

    This is the begining of something good for Ethiopian. we are very fortunate to have you.

  69. 69 Adey Nov 23rd, 2009 at 2:06 am

    Congratulations Dr. Ejeta! This is very inspiring for young Ethiopians looking towards the future! Thank you for honoring him with this article Tadias.

  70. 70 ADANE Nov 23rd, 2009 at 4:47 am

    Hello Professor.

    Extraordinary! Congratulations for your contribution of this great invention for Ethiopians, Africans and the rest of the world.

  71. 71 Dawite Dec 25th, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Hello Professor, I am very happy and energized by your success in the field of agriculture. Your hard work and success is paving the way for so many us who are living in a foreign land. You are a real role model for me in helping to change the views of many westerners about Ethiopia. Professor keep up your hard work and thank you very much for bringing tremendous change to this world.


  72. 72 Liky Jan 21st, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    Dear Professor, Congradulation. You are a proud to Ethiopia and Africa as a whole.
    God bless you more

  73. 73 Kasahun Kitila Jun 3rd, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Good start in fighting poverty and hunger in africa by you.Congra!! Hope to see the fruit of your effort extensivelly on the ground….

  74. 74 Abdy Shifa Sep 22nd, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Professor Ijeta,

    What an extraordinary Accomplishment. At this time of Global food shortage, your discovery will save many destitute people around the globe. May Allah protect you!

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