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 Gebisa Ejeta Day honors Purdue World Food Prize winner

 

A Purdue University plant breeder and geneticist whose sorghum research won him the 2009 World Food Prize will be honored during a daylong celebration Thursday (Oct. 22) on Purdue's West Lafayette campus.

During Gebisa Ejeta Day, the Distinguished Professor of Agronomy will speak on "The Pursuit of Purpose-Driven Science." A public reception will follow the lecture, and Purdue students are sponsoring activities to raise awareness of world hunger.

"Gebisa has devoted his career to fighting hunger," said Jay Akridge, Purdue's Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture. "It seems appropriate to honor him by engaging the Purdue community in a discussion of the issue and in helping fight hunger in our own community and around the world."

Ejeta received the World Food Prize Oct. 15 in Des Moines, Iowa, from the World Food Prize Foundation. The award is considered the Nobel Prize of agriculture. Ejeta was selected as a World Food Prize laureate for his research leading to improved sorghum varieties in his native Ethiopia and other African nations. Sorghum is a major food crop for more than 500 million people on the African continent.

Ejeta's Thursday (Oct. 22) lecture is open to the public and takes place at 2 p.m. in Stewart Center's Fowler Hall. Immediately after the lecture, the public is invited to a reception in Ejeta's honor in the Purdue Memorial Union South Ballroom.

Students in Purdue's College of Agriculture and War on Hunger organization plan to spend Gebisa Ejeta Day doing their part to fight global hunger, said Tim Kerr, assistant director for academic excellence in the College of Agriculture's Office of Academic Programs.

"They will collect food at the mini-marts at Meredith and Tarkington residence halls and then take the food items collected to Lafayette Urban Ministry," Kerr said.

"Also, students will distribute 1,000 granola bars on campus to represent a percentage of the caloric intake of someone from a third-world country. Attached to the granola bars will be a message explaining the significance of the day and asking the individual to consider ways they can impact the war on hunger."

On the eve of Gebisa Ejeta Day, Purdue students will hold a hunger banquet. The banquet takes place from 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 21) in the West Faculty Lounge of the Memorial Union.

The banquet illustrates how food availability and consumption varies around the world.

Banquet guests draw a ticket assigning them to a high-, middle- or low-income tier as determined by World Development Report statistics. They then are served a meal representative of what people in those income levels would eat each day. The 15 percent of guests in the high-income tier receive a gourmet meal. The 25 percent in the middle-income tier dine on rice and beans, while the 60 percent in the low-income tier wait in line for small portions of rice and water.

"Through this activity we hope to educate students and motivate them to help find solutions to end poverty and hunger," Kerr said.

In 1994 eight tons of Ejeta's drought-tolerant and Striga-resistant sorghum seeds were distributed to the African nations of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Farmers in those countries reported yields of as much as four times larger than traditional sorghum crops.

Read more about Ejeta's life and research in the fall issue of Connections, Purdue's agricultural alumni publication. More information about the World Food Prize Foundation and Prize is available at http://www.worldfoodprize.org.

Writer: Steve Leer, 765-494-8415, sleer@purdue.edu

Sources: Jay Akridge, 765-494-8391, akridge@purdue.edu
Tim Kerr, 765 494-8470, kerrtp@purdue.edu

 

 

 

 

 

 2009 World Food Prize