African scientist wins world food prize

Ethiopian agronomist Gebisa Ejeta’s efforts to protect an important food crop have netted him the 2009 World Food Prize.

Ejeta is credited with developing a variety of sorghum resistant to both drought and the parasitic weed striga. This stronger strain yields as much as four times the amount of grain as traditional varieties.

IDRC was an early supporter of Ejeta’s work to protect crops against striga in the 1970s and 1980s. In his 2007 book, Integrating New Technologies for Striga Control¸ Ejeta credits this investment and IDRC’s “uncommon model of providing national talent in developing countries with direct resource support and encouragement,” for spurring early advancements in this research.

The US$250 000 World Food Prize is awarded annually to acknowledge the contribution of individuals who have improved the quality, quantity, or availability of food in the world. It is considered the international development equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the award on June 11. Ejeta will receive the prize at a ceremony on October 15 at the Iowa State Capitol. He is only the second African to win the prize since its creation in 1986.

This is the second time in five years that an IDRC-funded researcher has been awarded the honour. Indian scientist Modadugu Gupta won in 2005 for his work to improve nutrition through the expansion of aquaculture and fish farming in South and Southeast Asia. In 2002, IDRC grantee Nagib Nassar was nominated for his research on cassava. -IDRC


September 2009