Monday, October 05, 2009

The Man from Wollonkomi

If you had not pay much attention to the news over the summer months, you may have missed the most important Ethiopia-related news of the year so far in my view. The news I am referring to is the naming of Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, a Distinguished Professor of Agronomy at Purdue University and a native of Ethiopia, as the 2009 World Food Prize Laureate.

Among Dr. Ejeta's major accomplishments, according to World Food Prize, is "his research to conquer the greatest biological impediment to food production in Africa -- the deadly parasitic weed Striga, known commonly as witchweed, which devastates yields of crops including maize, rice, pearl millet, sugarcane, and sorghum, thus severely limiting food availability." The picture below illustrates this point best.

After he was named a recipient of the World Food Prize, Dr. Ejeta travelled to Wollonkomi, the village of his birth, and other places in Ethiopia where he spent his formative years along with Tom Campbell, a managing editor of a Purdue publication. Mr. Campbell wrote a daily journal while he was in Ethiopia which is well worth your time to read. Here below is a poignant picture of Dr. Ejeta from the journal in front of a worn-out blackboard at his old elementary school.

Dr. Ejeta will present Iowa State University's annual Norman Borlaug Lecture on October 12 on the Ames campus and he will receive the $250,000 World Food Prize on October 15 at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa.

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