University of Maryland Extension

Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, 2009 World Food Prize Laureate, the Keynote Speaker for October 4th Summit - Global Challenges: Building Healthy Food Systems

Dr. Gebisa Ejeta
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Purdue University

The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is hosting its first-ever AGNR Cornerstone Event, a nod to the college’s history as the University's founding institution. On October 4th, the Stamp Student Union will be buzzing with faculty, staff, students, and public stakeholders at a major summit featuring key work and insight around global food and nutritional safety and security. The event will feature experts on family and food, nutrition, combating hunger, water for food and agriculture, and much more. 

To kick off the summit, the college is thrilled to feature Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, 2009 World Food Prize winner, as keynote speaker. Growing up in a thatched hut in a rural village in Ethiopia, his work combating the devastating Striga weed and enhancing sorghum productivity and viability has increased yields three to five times over for one of the world’s major sources of grain, greatly improving the food supply for hundreds of millions of people across many African countries. He is a very compelling speaker and truly influential player in global food and nutritional security, serving as a major thought leader in the field.

We caught up with Dr. Ejeta for a preview of what to expect on October 4th, and to discuss the next generation of agricultural researchers and innovators emerging to fight world hunger, improve the global economy, and feed a growing global population.

Q: What motivates you, and how did that motivation grow and guide you to where you are now?

A: I have been motivated by making direct and palpable contributions through the science that I practice, through my personal insights, and through thoughts that I have accumulated experientially towards the advancement of ‘science-based agricultural development’ in developing nations. It has helped me ensure that I stayed the course, and allowed me to become a professional with a good deal of satisfaction in the path I have traveled.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing humanity today?

A: I see the struggle to reduce hunger, poverty, and attain sustainable global food security to be humanity’s foremost challenge in the 21st century.

Q: How does interdisciplinary and collaborative science enter into solving these global issues?

A: Food insecurity, both local and global, is a complex problem needing interdisciplinary inputs from the physical, biological, and social sciences, that can be suffused with local knowledge, policy, and governance to address. It is by nature a grand challenge pulling broad perspectives from diverse sources through collaborative partnership and engagement, which unfortunately makes it a slow and deliberative process to solve and implement in practice.

Q: When you think about educating the next generation of leaders in agricultural and natural resource sciences, what do you prioritize?

A: I have always felt that the key to making good contributions in building the next generation of leaders is to identify young men and women driven by (or sensitized to) education and mentoring to make them the best professionals that they can be. This helps them achieve personal goals and make significant societal contribution in an endeavor of their choice.

Q: What advice would you give the next generation of young scientists, policy makers, economists, and leaders hoping to make a difference in food and nutritional security?

A: My advice to anyone is choose a cause (and possibly a career) that matches your personality, and remain true to that agenda, giving it unwavering support and commitment so that you give yourself a chance to making palpable contributions, however small those contributions may appear to others.

To learn more and register for this event, visit

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