Gebisa Ejeta, professor of agronomy and executive director of the Purdue Center for Global Food Security, is the 2009 World Food Prize winner for his work to combat the Striga weed. Striga, commonly known as witchweed, devastated African sorghum crops for decades and had a dramatic impact on food security throughout the continent. Ejeta’s work with the sorghum crop eventually yielded a drought-tolerant and Stiga-resistant variety, a discovery that has positively impacted the food security of nearly 100 million Africans.
Ejeta’s formative experiences led him to a career in agriculture and plant genetics. Raised in a one-room hut in Ethiopia with a 20 kilometer walk to school, Ejeta grew up keenly aware of the challenges facing rural African communities. Optimizing farming practices meant improved conditions for African farmers, an idea which inspired Ejeta through completion of his Ph.D. in plant breeding and genetics at Purdue.
In addition to his work as a researcher and director of the Center for Global Food Security, Ejeta works closely with international organizations like the United Nations and the Rockefeller Foundation on issues of food security. With his receipt of the World Food Prize, Ejeta has become an advocate for securing the world’s food supply through conservation, innovation and capacity building in the developing world. In 2018, Ejeta was appointed chair of the World Food Prize Laureate Selection Committee.