It is with sadness that the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) community learned about the passing away of Dr. Randy Barker last week at the age of 92. Dr. Barker was associated with IWMI from 1995 to 2004 and held several key positions in the Institute, including Interim Director General in 1995, Director National and Special Programs, Senior Advisor to the Director General, and Principal Researcher. Dr. Mark Smith, Director General, IWMI, and Dr. Roberto Lenton, Chair, IWMI Board of Governors, gratefully acknowledge Randy’s scientific contributions to foundational pieces of IWMI’s research during that period, including core research areas such as irrigation management, water scarcity, water productivity and valuing ecosystem services.
Dr. David Molden, a previous Deputy Director General at IWMI, remembers how Randy led the System-Wide Initiative on Water Management (SWIM), which was a first attempt of CGIAR to foster collaboration between different CGIAR Research Centers. The pioneering program brought together an interdisciplinary, cross-center team working on key water issues. Through the SWIM program, a number of groundbreaking papers were published on topics which still form the cornerstone of IWMI’s research today, such as water accounting, water productivity, basin-level water management and many other topics.
David recalls working with Randy on a SWIM project in China titled ‘More Rice with Less Water’, together with scientists from IWMI, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Wuhan University. They called the project team the ‘Swimming Ducks’ and Randy kept in touch with the Swimming Ducks throughout his career and thereafter. This is a testament to his team spirit and the cordial relationships which he maintained with colleagues. During his final period at IWMI, Randy was well beyond ‘retirement age’ but would remain active and energetic, as he would when challenging colleagues on the tennis court.
Dr. Andrew Noble, previously Director, CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), which was led by IWMI, remembers Randy as a respected and integral member of the IWMI regional office in Bangkok in the early 2000s. Andrew shared some of his memories of Randy:
He enriched the lives of many and left an indelible mark in the numerous early career scientists and students that he mentored and nurtured, leaving a legacy across southeast Asia. His unassuming nature and infectious smile imparted a sense of ease and encouragement.
Randy brought a wealth of practical and scientific knowledge to IWMI. He led a multidisciplinary team on the efficient and equitable transfer of water among the agricultural, municipal-industrial and environmental sectors during his time with the Agricultural Council and the Agricultural Engineering Research Centre in Taiwan. This was a seminal piece of research bringing together competing sectors to address a significant water issue. His significant contribution as a lead author in the CGIAR Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture, published in 2007, was instrumental in highlighting the challenges facing the agriculture sector into the 21st century and in part contributed to resetting the agenda of CGIAR.
Randy was a passionate supporter of the Boston Red Sox. In 2004, when they won the World Series for the first time since 1915, he was ecstatic and treated the entire office to a celebratory dinner.