Friday, July 8, 2022

Dr. Randolph "Randy" Barker, noted economist, passes at 92

Randy Barker (left) engages with Chu Thai Huanh of IWMI

Respected agricultural economist Randolph Barker passed at age 92 in Utah, USA.

Dr. Barker joined IRRI as head of IRRI's Economics Department, from 1966-78, and served as the acting head of the Social Sciences Division at IRRI from 2007-08.

Much of his research focused on collecting and analyzing farm household data on various issues such as land preparation and technology adoption by farmers to provide feedback to rice scientists about changes in farming and farm practices.   

Dr. Barker was part of the team that initiated IRRI's loop surveys, conducted about every five years, during the wet and dry seasons from 1966-67 to 2011-12. It is the longest farm survey in existence in which detailed records were kept on production systems and family activities of about 100 farmers in Central Luzon, Philippines. Dr. Barker began his academic career at Princeton, received his BS from Cornell University in 1953, MS from Oregon State University in 1957, and PhD from Iowa State University in 1960.

His impressive career included being a Professor Emeritus in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University, a member of the Board of Trustees of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria from 1987-1993, and a stint at the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka from 1995-2005. He was the principal investigator on “How to Grow More Rice with Less Water,” a project with Wuhan University. 

Dr. Barker was also a published author. “The Rice Economy of Asia”, co-authored with Robert Herdt and Beth Rose, is his most widely read work and has been described as interesting and useful to decision-makers at national and international levels, professionals, and students of development. 

Dr. Barker with his former IRRI Social Sciences Division colleagues. 
Photo courtesy of Dehner de Leon. 

Messages from former colleagues: 

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of Dr Barker. We had many interesting conversations together and he always showed great interest in my work. He would talk about the old days when he arrived at IRRI as an agricultural economist and how the job of an agricultural economist has changed over the years. He absolutely loved the Philippines and had many stories to share. I am grateful for having spent time with him and learning from his experience. He will truly be missed!” – Matty Demont, Sustainable Impact in Rice-based Systems Platform, IRRI

“Dr. Randy Barker was a great leader and mentor as the acting head of IRRI's Social Sciences Division.  His witty presentations and good humor are what I admired most.  He always had a sharp mind when it comes to work, engaging with him on the "Game of Rice" presentations during the past years is probably one of the best moments I have spent with him.  We will miss your presence, Dr. Barker.” Dehner De Leon, Former SSD staff (now Impact Evaluation, Policy and Foresighting (IEPF)), IRRI

“We will miss you Prof Randy.  Your wisdom, thoughtfulness, and your passion in your work in agriculture will be missed and most especially your zest for life!  Thank you for the opportunity to have known you. Rest in peace Sir!” - Tintin Doctolero, Senior Assistant - Admin Coordination/MCN,SIRS, IRRI.

"Dr.  Randy Barker had been a great influence in our lives. When he was a Visiting professor in Agricultural Economics at UPLB, he recommended my late husband, Dr. Tirso B. Paris, Jr. for a Fulbright Ph.D. Scholarship. He also encouraged me to pursue my MS in Agricultural Economics at UPLB while I worked as a research assistant at IRRI. During his frequent visits to the Social Sciences Division, he dropped by my room and discussed many new research topics including gender issues in agricultural research for development and climate change. As a friend, he used to have simple dinners with us whenever he visited Los Banos. We enjoyed listening to his interesting stories with a sense of humor that we used to lose track of time. 

He was indefatigable. Former staff members of the Social Sciences Division admire his energy especially when he goes on field trips to interview farmers. He wanted to receive first-hand information and insights. Because of his caring and jovial demeanor, he is well-loved by many of his former students, colleagues, and friends. Most of all, he loved Los Banos and the Philippines so much that he wanted to visit every year, despite the long flights. Los Banos was his second home. He adapted to the Filipino way of enjoying life by participating in all the Department's social activities. He was quite proud of wearing the barong Tagalog.

We will miss you, Prof. Randy. You had a life fully lived by sharing your wisdom as an internationally known agricultural economist and as a kind-hearted mentor and friend. You left a legacy that age is only a number. As we grow older, we should continue to be passionate in whatever we do; never stop learning, as well as share experiences, and knowledge to inspire and benefit others." - Dr. Thelma Paris, Formerly (Retired) Socioeconomist, Gender Specialist at Social Sciences Division,  IRRI 

"Randy is a great and wonderful boss who is so compassionate to all of his staff regardless of position. He loves IRRI and LB very much that he even planned to spend the rest of his senior years at LB doing rice research. Although his plan did not materialize, he did visit IRRI almost every year to do short term research , sometimes at his own exoense.He is very much concerned with the future of IRRI even at the last years of his life." - Pie Moya - Senior Market Research Manager, IRRI

"Dear Randy, I enjoyed discussing with you about rice research and the major challenges we face in international development every time you visit IRRI. It was always a pleasure having you in my office for some discussion, as I learn a lot from you. RIP!" -Val Pede, IEPF, IRRI


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