Gone too soon: IITA staff obituaries
“It is hard to forget someone who gave us so much to remember.” Those words captured the mood at IITA, as staff in different locations mourned the recent demise of three members of the IITA family in June 2020.
On 3 June, former leader of the Moist Savana Program in the Resource and Crop Management Division (RCMD), Dr I.O. Akobundu, passed away in Maryland, USA. Akobundu worked as a senior scientist in IITA from 1975 to 1995 and, until his retirement, made a positive impact with his determined and collaborative pursuit of the goals of his office in particular, and IITA in general. “He was a pioneer weed scientist at a time when weed science was in its infancy,” said Kwesi Atta-Krah, Director, Advocacy and Country Alignment. He made several technical publications in this field. Through his work, the Handbook of West African Weeds, which has been a principal reference document for weed scientists in West Africa, was published. A second edition of the book had been released with updated information and colored photos. His colleagues remember him fondly, saying, he understood the meaning of the word “team” and was always more focused on the good of the Institute.
A few days later, on 8 June, Jean-Marie Sanginga Matabaro, a pioneer staff of the IITA-Bukavu Station, also passed on after a brief illness in Uvira, DR Congo. Until his death, he was head of the IITA outreach office in Uvira, which he contributed immensely in establishing. Popularly known as JM, he joined IITA in 2009 as an Agronomist and Country Coordinator for the N2Africa project in DR Congo. Jean Marie built a reputation in leadership and management, developing strong partnership networks in the country as well as in the East and Central Africa region. He was known for his amiable personality and commitment to delivering on all the projects that he coordinated.
IITA-Bukavu also lost another member of the family on 24 June. IITA Cashier, HR and Administrative Assistant in Bukavu, Viviave Mugisho Neema, died at the Provincial General Hospital of references of Bukavu after months of illness. Vivy Dollars, as her friends and colleagues called her, joined IITA as an intern in 2013. Her associates knew her as diligent and jovial, a mix that endeared her to those who came in contact with her.
Staff of the Institute in multiple locations shared condolence messages with the families of the deceased. All three were also buried in June and will be missed by their families, friends, and colleagues.