Remembering a good friend and inspiring colleague, Dr. Carlos Perez

Today we are celebrating a dear friend and colleague who recently passed away. Photo: M. Schmorgan

A tribute to Dr Carlos Perez, a friend, colleague and excellent researcher.  

Carlos Perez, a committed scientist and colleague to many in CGIAR and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), recently passed away after living with cancer for almost five years. Missed by many, his work on development and agriculture will live on, contributing to a better, more sustainable and food secure tomorrow.

As an ecological anthropologist, Dr. Perez provided leadership and technical support to programs bridging science, policy, and practice for sustainable development. Originally from Bolivia, Carlos conducted research and managed projects in over 25 countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. 

Firmly centered on interdisciplinary approaches, his research focused on the social dimensions of climate variability and economic vulnerability within agriculture and natural resources management, and particularly the strategies that small-holder farmers use to adapt to economic and climatic risks.

His scientific and management work was characterized by a broad  intellectual vision combined with attention to the specific circumstances and challenges that shape farmers’ everyday lives.

Dr. Perez started his career in the CG system, working with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Mexico and Colombia, before going on to lead agriculture and environmental programming at CARE USA for several years. He then served as Director of the USAID-funded Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM CRSP) at the University of Georgia and as Associate Director for Tropical Agriculture at the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

More recently he was Senior Analyst for Sustainable Development at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) and then served as Liaison Scientist for the Andean Region, Collaborative Crop Research Program of the McKnight Foundation, mainstreaming climate change into project development strategies and institutional agendas.

Carlos worked on a number of different projects for CCAFS. One of these projects was the Baseline Surveys, including the collection, preparation and analysis of a comprehensive agriculture dataset that compares farming practices and status across the globe. He helped edit several village baseline reports, and also used several levels of the baseline data to analyze how gender relations affect agricultural practices and adaptation. Perez’ gender analysis will be featured in a forthcoming paper in Global Environmental Change. He was beginning a second analysis using the baseline data to examine the institutional capacity for climate adaptation among local level organizations at the CCAFS research sites. This analysis will be carried on by CCAFS staff and used to complete another paper. Carlos also contributed to revising the baseline survey tools for use in Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Words from Patti Kristjanson and CCAFS colleagues, who worked closely with Dr. Perez:

“We are very sad to have lost a dear colleague and special person, Carlos Perez, who contributed significantly and selflessly to our CGIAR aspirations of a world with less poverty and more happiness. His deeds and words will live on, however, and will continue to inspire young people to build upon the work he so passionately believed in. Carlos was a kind and caring colleague who never failed to ask how we all were doing and how our families were doing. We feel lucky to have known and worked with Carlos.”

Colleague Christine Jost at World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF): “It’s a small world, and a lot smaller when we lose somebody like Carlos

From an open letter written by Dr Perez' wife Elaine Brown:
“Carlos was always eager to learn. He was also gentle and ready to smile and crack a joke. He treasured his friends in many corners of the world. Carlos had a rich life, always open to new possibilities. While working for nonprofits and universities, he journeyed to countries and communities far and wide to work and learn how people and organizations create better and sustainable futures. He pursued his work with depth, commitment and diligence—he loved making visits to know, understand and support men and women, their needs and possibilities. He found joy and sanctuary at home, making music on his piano and guitar, working in our gardens, swimming and biking.

In October 2010, Carlos started a long and always unpredictable journey with cancer. Although he went through many ups and downs, he strove to keep life rewarding, joyful, peaceful and loving. He took each day in stride and focused on the good moments, good hours and good days. He remained positive, patient, philosophical and good-natured. We kept hope, and tried to dream. Most of all, we lived and cherished life in the present. He was grateful to his colleagues and friends for support, encouragement and the space to contribute.“

Carlos Perez will be missed by his wife Elaine Brown, daughter Sierra Perez, family members, close friends and colleagues from across the globe.

A Memorial Scholarship for a Bolivian university student is being established – please send enquiries to:

*Photo of Carlos Perez taken by daughter Sierra Perez.