"The bottleneck for Africa now We have the technology to double and triple corn yield. Corn is the most basic crop, food crop for all of sub-Saharan Africa. We can double and triple the yields. And there's much more land that can be opened if and when it's necessary. Some of that land is very acid, like the serato [phonetic] soils of Brazil, that are being opened. But our infrastructure is so poor the roads and the trucks and the cost of bringing fertilizer from the port, for example through Ethiopia the cost at the farmer's field will be three times what U.S. farmers will pay
"The person who got me involved was Mr. Sasakawa himself, Ryoichi is his first name. In 1984, when I was here at Texas A&M; as a visiting professor, he called me and he said, 'Look,' he said, 'I watched what went on in Asia when everybody said nothing could be done in wheat and in rice in India and Pakistan. Look what happened.' He said, 'But nothing's happening in Africa. With the drought of '83 and this early part of '84, I've given a lot of money to buy emergency grain for Ethiopia and Sudan, hurt both by the drought and civil war.' And he said, 'Why aren't you working there?'
"I said, 'I've retired. I work here teaching part time. I'm too old. I don't know anything about Africa.'
"The next morning, he called back. And he said, 'I'm eight years older than you are! We should have started yesterday. So start tomorrow!'
"So, with President Carter, and he and his son, we visited and one of the other directors of one of the international centers we visited five countries and decided to start in Sudan and Ethiopia. We made big progress in Sudan on wheat. We just about got them to self-sufficiency. Then, this was when all of the kidnappings were going on. Mr. Sasakawa said, 'Look, I think we better get out of here. I don't want to spend money by trying pay ransom to get some of you guys out from being kidnapped.'
"But we have since working in 10 countries. And I think the stage is set now, hopefully, to make a major breakthrough in Ethiopia
"The whole continent has been handicapped not just by the colonial period but by things before that. Diseases, human disease, malaria. And now AIDS, HIV is a disaster. But in addition, all of west Africa is still in hoe and machete agriculture All of these problems, plus many different languages and cultures. But, if we could make a major breakthrough in one and I'd like to see it happen in one African country before I say goodbye."