CIP Announces the Passing of Social Scientist, Dr. Gelia T. Castillo, First Woman to Join our Board of Trustees

It is with deep sadness that we announce the news of the passing of Dr. Gelia T. Castillo on Saturday 5 August.

Dr. Castillo was an eminent rural sociologist at the University of the Philippines and a pioneer at CIP as the first woman to join our Board of Trustees. She was a constant source of advice and inspiration for CIP’s programs in Southeast Asia with the UPWARD (Users’ Perspectives with Agricultural Research and Development) network in the 1990s and with FoodSTART in the early 2000s.

She brought humanity into her work as a social scientist with the impact of agriculture on health, gender, environment and poverty as a focus. A prolific author and noted speaker, Dr. Castillo was awarded the Outstanding Filipino Award in 2004 and was conferred the title of National Scientist by the President of the Philippines in 1999.

Dr. Castillo has been an inspiration for social scientists in her home country of the Philippines and around the world, sharing her knowledge and guidance by participating on boards of organizations in the areas of agriculture and health.

Details on the memorial and on Dr. Castillo’s life and work can be found on the Philippine Sociological Society’s website:

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for contributions to the Society.


 “What a well lived life! Enthusiasm, encouragement, correction and constant guidance were my experiences with Dr. Castillo while I lead the CIP work in Southeast Asia during the 1980s and early 90s. Her visionary approach in combining the social with the hard sciences was truly amazing and ground breaking! She was an incredible inspiration to many at CIP and was not only the first woman to join CIP’s Board of Directors but of all the CG Centers.”

– Peter VanderZaag, Former Regional Leader for CIP Southeast Asia

“Gelia was a fearless pioneer of applying a sociological critique to areas of research and development which had remained often innocent of the social dimension of their work. As the first social scientist to join CIP’s Board of Trustees – and the first women – she reminded CIP’s founding Director General that the potato plant is grown by women and men farmers and the farming household should be at the center of our concerns. The lesson was taken to heart in CIP and contributed to the growth of a strong and diverse social science capacity.

Gelia was an early influence as multi-term Board Member  on the strong and sophisticated sociological outlook of IDRC, an important CIP donor over the years and also a pioneer in new donor thinking in areas such as biodiversity, health, urban agriculture and food security. She was also the first social scientist to join the Executive Board of the World Health Organization, an agency where the rapier-like “this may be an ignorant question, but…” was especially relevant.

Gelia’s commitment to the practical and to understanding firsthand what is going on “in the field” – Beyond Manila was her seminal work that pointed attention away from the comfort of the urban academy and its theorizing and towards the rural issues besetting the vast majority of Filipinos – has been a great source of personal inspiration. She has been a mentor and friend for more than 25 years and it has been a privilege to have known her. She will be greatly missed, but we can be thankful that her legacy continues to influence more enlightened social development in the Philippines and beyond. “

– Gordon Prain, Senior Advisor, Social and Nutrition Sciences Division

“Dr. Castillo was an extraordinary scientist and passionate campaigner for uniting science with social science. She was a pioneer at CIP for the role of women in agricultural research. Her work provided more opportunities for women, like myself, to take on leadership positions. Dr. Castillo has left a remarkable legacy.”

– Dr. Barbara Wells, CIP Director General