Path Home Shows 2011 Show Archive July 2011 Show 1131 World Food Prize Laureate - Dr. Gebisa Ejeta

World Food Prize Laureate - Dr. Gebisa Ejeta

We meet World Food Prize winner, Gebisa Ejeta who is helping feed the world…thanks to some Oklahoma help decades ago.
World Food Prize Laureate - Dr. Gebisa Ejeta

Dr. Gebisa Ejeta

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World Food Prize

Show Dates

Show 1131: World Food Prize Laureate - Dr. Gebisa Ejeta

Air date: July 31, 2011

 

Transcript

COURTENAY DEHOFF:  THE UNITED STATES HAS LONG BEEN KNOWN AS THE BREADBASKET OF THE WORLD.  EACH FARMER IN THE U.S. FEEDS ANOTHER 155 PEOPLE AROUND THE GLOBE.  YET, JUST AS IMPORTANT AS THE FOOD WE EXPORT, IS THE KNOWLEDGE WE EXPORT, ESPECIALLY WITH WORK DONE IN AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES; EDUCATING OTHERS IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES TO BECOME AS PRODUCTIVE IN AGRICULTURE AS WE ARE.  TODAY, WE BEGIN WITH A STORY OF A MAN WHO HELPED CHANGE THE WORLD FOR THE BETTER THANKS TO THE EFFORTS OF SOME OKLAHOMANS MORE THAN 50 YEARS AGO.

ETHIOPIA, TO MANY AMERICANS, A REMOTE AND LITTLE KNOWN LAND…

COURTENAY:  BUT A LAND THAT PLANTED DEEP ROOTS IN OKLAHOMA, LONG AGO.  PRESIDENT OF OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY, ROBERT KAMM.

ROBERT KAMM:  IN 1952, THE OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY, THEN OKLAHOMA A&M COLLEGE, EMBARKED UPON A PROGRAM TO ASSIST THE SOVEREIGN EMPIRE OF ETHIOPIA.

COURTENAY:  EDUCATION THAT CAME FULL CIRCLE AT THIS YEAR’S GRADUATION WHEN WORLD FOOD PRIZE WINNER GEBISA EJETA WAS HONORED AT OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY’S GRADUATION.

GEBISA EJETA:  FOR OVER 50 YEARS…

COURTENAY:  AN HONOR THAT STARTED YEARS AGO WHEN HE ATTENDED A HIGH SCHOOL IN ETHIOPIA BUILT AND STAFFED BY OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY.  SO UPON GRADUATION, EJETA CAME TO THE UNITED STATES TO STUDY AGRICULTURE, BEGINNING A CAREER THAT CULMINATED WITH AGRICULTURE’S HIGHEST HONOR.

CEREMONY ANNOUNCER:  THE 2009 WORLD FOOD PRIZE LAUREATE.

[MUSIC]

COURTENAY:  HUMANITARIAN, GEBISA EJETA, RECEIVED THE WORLD FOOD PRIZE FOR HIS IMPROVEMENTS OF SORGHUM, AND ENHANCING THE FOOD SUPPLY FOR MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN AFRICA.

DR. GEBISA EJETA :  I AM THE RANDOM LUCKY GUY THAT HAD BEEN RECOGNIZED FOR THE WORK THAT I HAVE DONE.  BUT THERE ARE VERY MANY LIKE ME OUT THERE THAT HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE IN THEIR OWN LIVES AND THROUGH THEIR LIVES AND THEIR LIVES AND THEIR PROFESSIONAL CAREERS THAT THEY’VE HAD, IMPACTED THE LIFE OF OTHERS.  TO BE IDENTIFIED AS SOMEBODY THAT HAS RECEIVED THAT DISTINCTION AND GIVEN AN OPPORTUNITY FOR AN EDUCATION, TOOK ADVANTAGE OF THAT EDUCATION AND NOW IS MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF POOR AND DEVELOPING COUNTRIES.  AND THEN, FOR OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY TO RECOGNIZE ME IN SUCH A WAY HAS BEEN VERY, VERY HUMBLING, BUT I FEEL GREATLY HONORED.

COURTENAY:  ALTHOUGH MODEST, THE NOBEL PRIZE OF AGRICULTURE, THE WORLD FOOD PRIZE WAS A MISSION OF MANY MILES FOR EJETA.

EJETA:  I COME FROM AN ABSOLUTELY MODEST BACKGROUND; A VERY POOR BACKGROUND.  AND GROWING UP POOR, GROWING UP HUNGRY, HAD INSPIRED ME TO UTILIZE THE KNOWLEDGE THAT I HAVE AND THE OPPORTUNITIES I GET TO TRULY TRY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR THE LIVES OF THE POOR.

COURTENAY:  A DRIVING FORCE THAT LED EJETA DOWN A UNIQUE ROAD.

EJETA:  MY CAUSE AND MY MISSION IS TO BRING SCIENCE-BASED DEVELOPMENT TO THE DEVELOPING WORLD AND TO ADVANCE THE CAUSE OF THE POOR, THE CAUSE OF THE HUNGRY AND TO ENGAGE THE WORLD IN DEVELOPING, THE DEVELOPED COUNTRY.  AND TO SEE AND TRULY ENGAGE THE DEVELOPING WORLD, WE REALLY NEED TO BUILD THE CAPACITY AND BUILD INSTITUTIONS SO THAT TOMORROW THEY WOULD BE REALLY ENGAGED AS PARTNERS IN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY.  AND SO THAT IS GOING TO OUTLIVE ME, BUT THAT WOULD CONTINUE TO BE THE MISSION THAT I AM ON.

COURTENAY:  DEVELOPING SORGHUM HYBRIDS THAT ARE RESISTANT TO DROUGHT AND THE DEVESTATING STRIGA WEED, PROVED TO BE ONE OF EJETA’S GREATEST FEATS.

EJETA:  THE APPLICATION IS NOT THE VARIETY WORKING HERE, NO, THE APPLICATION IS THE SCIENCE THAT IS BEING USED TO DEVELOP THOSE, THOSE VARIETIES THAT I DEVELOPED FOR, FOR AFRICA.  AND THAT IS BASED ON UNDERSTANDING THE ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH THE SCIENTISTS WORK, AND THE EXPLOITATION OF THE GENETICS; THE SCIENCE OF GENETICS, THE SCIENCE OF CROP PHYSIOLOGY, AND BRINGING IT TOGETHER IN DEVELOPING A TECHNOLOGY THAT THE PARTICULAR ENVIRONMENT IS LOOKING FOR AND MAKING SURE THAT THAT IS DELIVERED WELL.  IT IS NOT ANY DIFFERENT IN TERMS OF THE ONGOING MISSION OF INSTITUTIONS LIKE OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY HAVE ALREADY DONE.

COURTENAY:  A MISSION THAT STARTED RIGHT HERE IN OKLAHOMA AND ENDED UP THOUSANDS OF MILES AWAY IN ETHIOPIA.

EJETA:  TWO INSTITUTIONS THAT OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY BUILT IN ETHIOPIA.  AND ALONG WITH IT IS THIS PRINCIPLE, THIS CONCEPT OF THE LAND GRANT UNIVERSITY MODEL AND BRINGING IN, EDUCATING THE YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN FROM RURAL COMMUNITIES AND GIVING THEM THE EDUCATION THEY NEED TO BECOME RESEARCH SCIENTISTS, DEVELOPING AGENTS TO SERVE THE COMMUNITY FROM WHERE THEY COME.

THIS IS THE ROAD THAT WE TRAVELED ON EVERY SUNDAY.  WE FIRST WALK ABOUT 15 KILOMETERS, AND THE LAST 5 KILOMETERS IS REALLY A KILLER ROAD, BECAUSE FROM HERE ON THESE ARE ALL THE WAY UPHILL, ALL THE WAY TO THE SCHOOL.

COURTENAY:  FINISHING EIGHT GRADE AT THE TOP OF HIS CLASS, EJETA WAS SELECTED TO STUDY AT GEMMA AGRICULTURAL AND TECHNICAL SCHOOL, WHERE HE GRADUATED WITH DISTINCTION.  HE THEN ENTERED OKLAHOMA BUILT ALAMAYA COLLEGE.  HE EXCELLED NOT ONLY IN THE CLASSROOM, BUT ON THE BASKETBALL COURT AS WELL.  ALL THE WHILE WEARING HAND-ME-DOWN JERSEYS OF THE OKLAHOMA A&M AGGIES; BUT, STUDIES ALWAYS CAME FIRST.

EJETA:  SO MY ENTIRE EDUCATIONAL AND PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE WAS, WAS BASED ON GETTING THE VALUE OF PURPOSE-DRIVEN RESEARCH TO SERVE HUMANITY.

COURTENAY:  AND EJETA SAYS MOST OF HUMANITY DOESN’T EVEN KNOW WHERE THERE FOOD COMES FROM.

EJETA:  FOOD DOESN’T COME OUT OF GROCERY STORES; SEE, FOOD COMES FROM THE SWEAT AND, AND EFFORT OF PEOPLE WORKING OUT IN THE FIELD, BUT THAT EFFORT WILL HAVE NO VALUE IF IT WASN’T BASED ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION THAT WAS GENERATED THROUGH THE LAND GRANT UNIVERSITY.  BUT IT REALLY DOESN’T TAKE MUCH TO DISTURB THIS FOOD BALANCE THAT WE HAVE, AND PARTICULARLY WITH THE RAPID GROWTH OF GLOBAL POPULATION.  WE NEED TO TAKE THAT TASK VERY, VERY SERIOUSLY BECAUSE THERE IS NOTHING SO VALUABLE TO HUMANITY THAN FOOD.

COURTENAY:  NOW ON HIS RETURN VISIT TO HIS ALMAMATER, EJETA ENJOYED VISITING HERITAGE HALL IN GALLAGHER IBA ARENA WHERE HE GOT TO TAKE A LOOK AT SOME OF THE OLD OKLAHOMA A&M UNIFORMS THAT HE PLAYED IN OVER HALF A CENTURY AGO IN ETHIOPIA.