In July 2020, Dr. Neville Clarke retired after 45 years of leadership on agricultural research for poverty alleviation. Clarke has served as a senior advisor to the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Small Scale Irrigation (ILSSI) since 2018, when he handed over the reins to Nicole Lefore after successfully steering the program since 2012.
Clarke spearheaded the inception of ILSSI in 2012, wanting to bring together expertise in spatial sciences from the Texas A & M University with experiences and knowledge on natural resources from CGIAR. Since then, this combination has enabled ILSSI to build global and national partnerships and networks, raise the profile of farmer-led irrigation as a development investment, and generate a robust peer-reviewed evidence base for expanding small scale irrigation.
While Clarke directed the ILSSI program, he joined field visits to work with smallholders in countries from Nepal to Ethiopia, meeting with farmers and visiting demonstration sites.
In Ethiopia, he would spend time at Bahir Dar University and then visit farmer and demonstration fields in the Amhara region, alongside researchers and graduate students. He developed a reputation among students for his strength and acuity as well as for his historical knowledge of the country.
In 2013, Clarke received the Special Service Award from the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development, recognizing his “outstanding contributions toward poverty alleviation and food security in the developing countries”. The award followed an exceptional career in agricultural research for development, starting in 1975 when Clarke became director of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, now called Texas A & M AgriLife Research.
In that role, Clarke initiated research projects in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa as well as the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya. Clarke was also the founding director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Center of Excellence on Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense, he and has been a U.S. Department of Agriculture advisor on agricultural biosecurity since 1996.
Although Clarke has now formally retired, he will continue to serve as a source of inspiration and guidance to the ILSSI team and other researchers at Texas A & M.