Gordon Conway (1938–2023), leader in sustainable development


Sir Gordon Conway

Credit: Imperial College London

Gordon Conway was an inspiring interdisciplinary researcher who was enthusiastic about farming and sustainability long before they were stylish subjects. Throughout his profession, he worked to attain sustainable farming advancement, enhance food security and minimize hardship worldwide. He was among the designers of the sustainable incomes approach– a structure for advancement that paid attention to regional farming practices by listening to and gaining from farmers. This method has actually considering that been accepted by lots of advancement companies.

His prominent 1997 book The Doubly Green Revolution proposed that it is possible to integrate standard and brand-new innovations to enhance performance and assistance farmers’ incomes in a manner that is sustainable, without harming the environment. His unerring faith in technological services made some of us anxious, Gordon’s dedication to understanding the advantages of innovation– consisting of tools established by farmers themselves– might not be questioned. A few of the most striking areas of the book explain small farms, consisting of in Java and western Kenya, where farmers attained high yields by growing numerous crops in a little area.

Born in Birmingham, UK, Gordon was excited from an early age by the natural world. He was interested by pests, specifically how to handle bugs without using damaging chemicals. He did a bachelor’s degree in ecology at the University College of North Wales in Bangor, UK, and gotten diplomas in farming science and tropical farming from the University of Cambridge, UK, and the University of the West Indies in Trinidad (now Trinidad and Tobago), respectively. He went on to operate in North Borneo (now Sabah in Malaysia) on incorporated bug management.

On North Borneo’s cocoa farms, pests were triggering extensive defoliation. After launching parasitic wasps, the natural opponents of the bugs, the cocoa plants prospered, decreasing the requirement for pesticides. Gordon utilized this experience in his research studies at the University of California, Davis: his 1969 PhD thesis in systems ecology concentrated on comprehending insect recreation and the ramifications for bug management.

Subsequently, at Imperial College London, he dealt with leading ecologists– members of the ‘Silwood circle’, consisting of Bob May, Roy Anderson and Richard Southwood– contributing a used viewpoint. In 1976, Imperial developed the Centre for Environmental Technology with Conway as its director. The list below year, the centre introduced its multidisciplinary master’s course in ecological innovation, producing lots of graduates– myself consisted of– who had an interest in ecological concerns. In 1986, he developed the sustainable farming program at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), an independent research study and policy company in London.

The sustainability of rural advancement ended up being main to his work as the Ford Foundation’s agent in New Delhi from 1988 to 1992. Together with Robert Chambers at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) of the University of Sussex in Falmer, near Brighton, UK, he originated research study methods in which farmers were active individuals which were rooted in his idea of agroecosystem analysis. A crucial function of this work was using participatory diagramming– a talking to strategy in which individuals draw diagrams to help understanding– to check out intricate systems. I keep in mind Gordon and Robert returning from a check out to Wollo in northern Ethiopia in 1988, loaded with enjoyment about the lessons they had actually gained from farmers, such as how soil and water were caught in hillside gullies to produce efficient micro-plots in an extreme environment. These useful field approaches went on to transform rural advancement practices.

In 1992, Conway and Chambers released an IDS conversation paper called Sustainable rural incomes. This paper made the case for improving individuals’s capabilities, abilities and resources so they might cope and preserve sustainable incomes with tensions and shocks, such as dry spells, economic crises, illness or disputes. Most importantly, such incomes require to be sustainable throughout generations, without weakening the natural deposits on which they rely. The incomes method has actually considering that ended up being main to disputes about sustainable advancement. It was essential to the vision of the UK Department for International Development (DFID), developed in 1997 under the ministerial management of Clare Short, with whom Gordon worked carefully.

Translating research study experiences into action was main to Gordon’s objective. He was vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex in between 1992 and 1998. As president of the Rockefeller Foundation in New York City from 1998 to 2004, he supported crucial programs, consisting of worldwide HIV/AIDS efforts. From 2005 to 2009, he was primary clinical advisor at DFID. In 2009, he established the Agriculture for Impact advocacy effort at Imperial, which offered the base for assembling the Malabo Montpellier Panel– a worldwide network of policymakers, professionals and scientists promoting for farming advancement. As its very first chair, he made the case for increased financial investment in farming, specifically in Africa. His dedication to justice, understanding and cooperation encompassed his chairing of the Runnymede Trust Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, whose prescient 1997 report, Islamophobia: A Challenge for United States All, is well worth learning more than 25 years later on.

Gordon was an incredible coach. He appeared to understand everybody and was a fantastic networker. He would constantly listen and include to early-stage scientists. Regardless of his grand positions and a selection of awards and titles– consisting of a knighthood in 2005– he was constantly available, helpful and interested, and kept his dedication to alter through interdisciplinary research study and participatory engagement worldwide.

Competing Interests

The author states no completing interests.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here