A World Food Prize laureate who was raised in a thatched hut in Ethiopia and later used his training as a plant breeder and geneticist to abate hunger in Africa will deliver an invited talk about food security at Colorado State University.
Gebisa Ejeta, distinguished professor of agronomy and world-renowned sorghum researcher at Purdue University, will discuss "Global Food Security in the Face of Growing Challenges" during the 12th annual Thornton-Massa Lecture.
The event begins at 3 p.m. Sept. 11 in room 131 of the Behavioral Sciences Building on the CSU campus; it is free and open to the public. The lecture is sponsored by the CSU College of Agricultural Sciences and College of Natural Sciences.
“In my household, inasmuch as I had lots of love, because of a limited income, life was a struggle on a daily basis. So hunger is something I have personally experienced,”¯ Ejeta said in a video interview produced by the World Food Prize.
Ejeta was honored in 2009 with the world's most prestigious award for people who have made significant contributions to solving global hunger. The World Food Prize - known as the Nobel Prize for agriculture - recognizes international role models who inspire others to address food security.
The honor was bestowed for Ejeta's work developing sorghum hybrids resistant to drought and to the parasitic Striga weed, called “witchweed”¯ for the devastating effect it has on sorghum and other crops. Scientists consider Striga the greatest biological impediment to food production in Africa.
Ejeta's work has dramatically increased production and availability of sorghum, one of the world's five principal cereal grains, boosting the food supply for millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa. Beyond his scientific research, Ejeta works tirelessly with subsistence farmers to ensure that improved sorghum varieties successfully grow and enter the food supply.
He relates to poverty-stricken farmers because he has been there: Although raised in a one-room hut in an Ethiopian village, Ejeta excelled as a student and ultimately earned a doctorate in plant breeding and genetics at Purdue University, where he has remained as an honored agronomy professor. President Barack Obama recently appointed Ejeta to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development.
Ejeta has motivated the scientific community, students, policy makers, anti-hunger advocates and African farmers, among many others, said Daniel Bush, chair of the CSU Department of Biology and lead organizer of the 2011 Thornton-Massa Lecture.
“People in his country revere him. They recognize him walking in the street and are overwhelmed in his presence,”¯ said Thomas Holtzer, co-chair of the 2011 Thornton-Massa Lecture and a CSU department head who recently attended academic meetings with Ejeta in Ethiopia. “Dr. Ejeta is an inspiration because he can show us how to do something important with your life. With