Lowell Hardin, a CIAT Founding Father

4 May, 2015 by (comments)

CIAT joins the family and many friends and colleagues of Lowell Hardin, professor emeritus at Purdue University, USA, in mourning his death on 28 April at the age of 97. While Hardin’s 70-year career of service to humanity reached many individuals and organizations, it had special significance for us at CIAT, as he figured prominently among the Center’s founders. Hardin went on to become, in the words of a Purdue tribute, “a principal architect of the worldwide system of 15 international agricultural research centers” to which CIAT belongs.


CIAT Director General Ruben Echeverría with Professor Lowell Hardin at Purdue University, USA, in April 2011.

Hardin’s seminal role in the creation of CIAT was an amazing institutional achievement for someone who had just begun a second career in 1965 as senior agriculturalist with the Ford Foundation. Hardin joined Ford after having been a member and then head of Purdue’s Department of Agricultural Economics for 2 decades – experience that gave rise to his “vision and passion for international development,” again in the words of the Purdue tribute.

In October 1966, Hardin and Lewis M. Roberts of the Rockefeller Foundation wrote “A proposal for creating an international institute for agricultural research and training.” One year later, their two foundations together with the Government of Colombia and Kellogg Foundation agreed to establish CIAT. Despite misgivings in some quarters that the vision for the Center was too broad, encompassing too many elements, Hardin and Lewis proposed that it “not focus on just one crop or just one specific activity. Instead, it would concentrate on identifying and solving problems in the agriculture and livestock production of the tropics.”

In a seminar presentation that Hardin gave at CIAT in 1997 on the occasion of our 30th anniversary, he spoke about “a center with a difference,” reaffirming the original decision to give CIAT research a dual focus, consisting of strong programs on multiple commodities alongside efforts on “overall farming systems” aimed at “addressing eco-regional concerns” and avoiding “widespread degradation of natural resources.”

In a chance meeting with Hardin at Purdue in April 2011, CIAT director general Ruben Echeverría retrieved a copy of the original founding document that sketched out this ample and flexible vision for the Center. The document’s wording seems especially prescient now against the background of recent developments in CGIAR. The scope and diversity of CIAT’s research are precisely what enables it to contribute so broadly and importantly to the global research agenda. This is the difference that CIAT makes, and it is part of the global legacy that Lowell Hardin leaves behind.


Copy of the original founding document that sketched out this ample and flexible vision for the Center.

Filed Under: Uncategorized