Hans Binswanger, Highly Respected Economist and NC State Alumnus, Passed Away August 4th, 2017

Hans Binswanger (NC State University, Ph.D, 1973) passed away on August 4, 2017. Our Cornell colleague, Professor Prabhu Pingali, who worked extensively with Hans wrote the obituary shown below.

Hans Binswanger (1943-2017): the Passing of an Distinguished NC State Alumnus

By Prabhu Pingali (NC State Ph.D, 1982)

The passing away of Hans Binswanger, on August 4, 2017, leaves a big hole in the agricultural and development economics profession. Hans is widely considered the best agricultural development economist of recent times, both in terms of research contributions, and as a development practitioner par excellence. Hans Binswanger is commonly described as a giant in our profession. He has received some of the most important awards and recognitions for outstanding contributions given by the agricultural economics profession. NC State recognized his professional achievements with a “Distinguished Alumnus” award in 2001.

Hans Binswanger got his Ph.D in Economics from NC State in 1973.  He started his professional career in the early 1970s at the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT), based in Hyderabad, India. It was a time when India and most developing countries were grappling with high levels of hunger and rural poverty. Hans’ research focused on small farm productivity growth as the primary mechanism for poverty reduction and economic growth. He has maintained a prolific research record over the past four decades covering most of the rural development problems faced by developing countries.

During his long career as a Senior World Bank official, he was able to put into practice the findings of his research and those of his colleagues. He has had a major influence on agricultural development policies in the developing world, particularly in Africa. Throughout his career, Hans has shown that research excellence and high quality development practice can and should go together and should inform each other. That is the only way that the economics profession can change the lives of the poor for the better. It was the strength of Hans’s research that made him a highly effective development practitioner. He was also fierce fighter against discrimination of all sorts in the World Bank and other UN agencies.

Hans will also be remembered as a exceptional mentor, he helped dozens of young economists build their careers and continued to be a supporting and inspiring figure to them long after they became establish professionals in their own right. All of us who were guided and lead by Hans Binswanger will miss him dearly, the hole he left in our lives will be hard to fill.

Hans Binswanger will be remembered by the thousands of development practitioners for the enormous contributions he made to the profession, but for those of us who were fortunate to have known him personally, he will be remembered more for his fierce pursuit of the truth, his uncompromising belief in what was right, his apparently bottomless generosity of spirit, and his unfailing kindness to everyone around him.