Dr Devra Jarvis of Bioversity International, formerly the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, reminisces about her late friend and colleague, Dr Suha Ashtar, on behalf of the global on-farm team.
It is with great sadness that we heard of the passing of Suha Ashtar on 17 April 2013 in Aleppo. Suha was one of the first members of the “in situ family” that over the years worked at Bioversity International to establish a scientific basis for on farm conservation of crop biodiversity, together with colleagues from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Hungary, Mexico, Morocco, Peru and Vietnam. I remember my first meeting with Suha, when we were interviewing for the various regional staff to help me coordinate the global in situ programme, and being impressed by her lively and bright manner and her ability to forcefully express her own ideas and opinions. I still remember a short trip into the Italian countryside the core in situ project group took in a mini-bus, together with our donor, and the heated discussions about how the project should go, not to mention the calls for me to drive more slowly, as the back of the bus was shaking back and forth! Going through some old photos, I found a lovely one of Suha at the group dinner of a global meeting we had in Pokhara, Nepal in 1999 with colleagues from over 20 countries about working to support farmers in the assessment, management and gaining benefits from the conservation and use of traditional crop varieties. The dinner had followed long discussions and a hike up the hills nearby to meet with some local women and men farmers’ groups. Suha will be sorely missed by her colleagues and friends, and by myself especially as one of her first supervisors, when she was just setting out, young, intelligent and full of energy to start her career.