Saturday, October 15, 2016

Bart Duff, former IRRI economist, passes away in Manila

Dr. Bart Duff, 76, an agricultural economist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for 20 years (1970-90), passed away in Manila, Philippines, of cardiac arrest on 13 October. At IRRI, he pioneered research on the role of women in rice production and also conducted studies on farm mechanization.

As early as 1979, he had gathered data on the role of women in rice production. At that time, he found the contribution of female labor in non-mechanized rice production systems in West Java, South Sulawesi, central Thailand, and the Philippines ranged from 43% to 56% of total labor. For a time in the 1980s, he coordinated the Women in Rice Farming Systems (WIRFS) Program. WIRFS was the framework for addressing women’s concerns in both research and extension programs on rice farming systems.

Duff was the economist assigned to IRRI’s then Agricultural Engineering Department to work specifically on the economics of farm mechanization. In that assignment, he was involved in IRRI’s long-time loop survey, a frequent survey of rice farms along the national highway in Central Luzon, Philippines, to observe farm practices, particularly in land preparation. He also researched energy requirements for alternative rice production systems in the tropics

In a 2009 IRRI Pioneer interview, he stated, “I believe the greatest challenge for IRRI will be to continuously revise and re-invent itself to more meaningfully anticipate and address contemporary issues while optimizing its limited resources. The need for rice research is no less now than it was three decades earlier. The complexity and sophistication of IRRIs research today are awesome, but in many instances simply addressing old problems with new tools. For example, IRRIs pioneering work in genome mapping and gene manipulation continues to focus on yield, disease, and environmental constraints, but is now able to overcome problems considered unsolvable 25 years ago.”

He went on to say, “I always admire IRRI for maintaining its position on the frontier of rice research using a combination of visionary leadership, superb science, a dedicated staff, and the foresight to forgo research better done in collaboration with national programs. I’ve been gone for nearly 20 years, but I feel very proud and gratified when I learn of IRRIs unique initiatives to incorporate better nutrition and grain quality into the rice grain and improve the inherent resistance of the rice plant to diseases and insects.”

“We are making progress,” he said. “But with a growing population and anemic economic development in many countries, IRRI is trying to hit a moving target. We haven’t won the race against hunger and poverty yet!  And, as a global issue, climate change and global warming present an immense challenge for IRRI to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions stemming from rice production. IRRI will not run out of challenges during its second 50 years.”

A native of Pendleton, Oregon, Duff had degrees from Washington State University (1962) and Stanford University (1970). He was also an American Peace Corps volunteer in the early 1960s. He was active in the local Puerto Princesa community (Palawan, Philippines), serving as president of the Palawan Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He operated, with his wife Paz Aurora, an NGO, Poor No More, Inc., on Palawan.

In addition to Paz Aurora 'Baby', his wife of 33 years, he is survived by son Aaron, and daughter Shannon.

Condolence messages may be placed on Bart Duff’s Facebook page.

Watch a clip from his 2009 IRRI Pioneer Interview.

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