In Memoriam

Dr. Barbara H. Wells

Director General, International Potato Center Global Director of Genetic Innovation, CGIAR Leader, Mentor, Friend

The unexpected passing of Dr. Barbara Wells in February 2022 was a blow to everyone at CIP and across the CGIAR and our partner organizations. Throughout her time at CIP, Dr. Wells maintained a steadfast commitment to genetic innovation, high-impact research and mentoring women scientists. She helped devise solutions to agriculture’s most pressing challenges and, in the process, bolstered nutrition and food security for millions of vulnerable people around the world.

Dr. Wells joined CIP in 2014 when she helped to improve and develop the organization’s science through the expansion of partnerships – including the World Food Programme – and a steadfast commitment to the importance of genetic gains and crop breeding innovations, high-impact research benefiting millions of smallholder farmers and vulnerable communities around the world as well as creating pathways of excellence for women in science.

“Barbara joined CIP at a crucial time when the scientific community was racing to find answers to bolster food security and nutrition in the face of climate change, and CIP is strong today because of her leadership excellence,” said Dr. Helen Hambly Odame, the Board Chair of CIP. “She oversaw diverse genetic solutions and products of the highest possible quality. Sadly, Barbara has left us now, but she ensured that that CIP and CGIAR are well positioned to contribute strongly to a healthy, more sustainable and equitable world.”

Dr. Marco Ferroni, Chair of the CGIAR System Board, said, “Barbara’s passing is a great loss to both CGIAR and to her fields of scientific expertise. We will honor her legacy by continuing our work to transform food, land, and water systems to improve the stewardship of natural resources and the lives of people around the world, as Barbara did throughout her life. Barbara was a champion and mentor to so many young scientists and women in the field – her loss will be deeply felt by colleagues across CGIAR.”

To those of us who had the privilege of sharing time with Dr. Wells in the laboratory, the conference room or the field, all remember how her commitment to science and research was built upon a foundation of wanting to improve lives in the world’s most vulnerable communities. Whether supporting nutrition programs for expectant mothers or providing vision for developing more adaptable root and tuber crops for people living in harsh climates, Dr. Wells kept her focus on healthy families with fulfilling lives.

From the hallways of CIP headquarters in Lima, Peru to the field site of the most remote CIP and CGIAR science team, Barbara was liked and respected by all. Her presence will be greatly missed.

Oscar Ortiz
Director General a.i