Dr. Gebisa Ejeta was honoured at the U.S. State Department Thursday for his breakthroughs in developing drought and disease-resistant forms of sorghum, which is an African diet staple. According to the U.S.-based World Food Prize Foundation, which awards the prize annually to individuals who have helped increase the global food supply, Ejeta's efforts have exponentially increased production and availability of the crop around the continent.
Ejeta grew up in a one-room thatched hut in Ethiopia and eventually became a professor at Purdue University. He helped develop a drought-resistant sorghum in the 1980s that was eventually harvested on a million African acres, and later developed a type of sorghum that successfully resisted a persistent weed.
Sorghum is a grain that is used in many popular regional breads - injera in Ethiopia, kisra in Sudan and roti in India - and is also used to make couscous and some drinks. It is primarily used for animal feed and in renewable fuels in the United States.
The prize, an award of $250,000, was announced Thursday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Established in 1986, the World Food Prize was created by Norman Borlaug, who won the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for developing successive generations of wheat varieties with disease resistance and sparking the "Green Revolution" that brought greater food supplies to Mexico and other developing countries around the world in the mid-20th century. He created the World Food Prize to honour efforts to solve global hunger problems.