New INBAR Board Chair Professor Lucie Edwards discusses the importance of an integrated farming system, her twenty-year wait to become chair of the INBAR Board of Trustees and why to her, bamboo is ‘a Shmoo’.
When Professor Lucie Edwards, then a Canadian civil servant in the department of foreign affairs and Chair of the International Center for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF), boarded a plane to New York more than 20 years ago, she didn’t expect to be sat next to the first ever Board Chair of another international organisation that would come to be such a big part of her life. Gordon Smith, a fellow Canadian, spent the plane ride regaling her with stories of INBAR’s works and projects with passion and enthusiasm, and she matched his interest with a barrage of questions as well as filling him in on her own organization and experience; this was the first she had really heard of the power of bamboo and rattan to change lives and improve the global environment. Recalling that conversation with Gordon Smith now, she can’t believe what happened next: Gordon told her, “Mark my words; in 20 years, it’s you who will be in my position.”
A little more than 20 years later, his words have come to pass, and Professor Lucie Edwards has been appointed as co-Chair of INBAR’s Board of Trustees after already serving on the Board for several years. INBAR’s Board of Trustees is an elected body of experts from all over the world and from many fields, that takes responsibility for steering the general direction of the organisation, advising on key matters, and appointing the position of Director General, a role currently held by Dr. Hans Friederich. Edwards told INBAR that the future of INBAR depends on the strength and extension of its network of relationships, and that the Board exemplifies this strong network.
Edwards has held a high ranking career as a diplomat in the Canadian Foreign Service, specialising in African and Middle Eastern peace and security issues and including three spells as High Commissioner, first to Kenya and then to South Africa followed by India. Her interest in agroforestry came a little later in her career, when travels around Africa with her husband, a forester, showed her just how important and fascinating the subject is – it became something of a “hobby”, as she put it to INBAR. She would go on to become High Commissioner of Canada to Kenya in 1993, which would see her personal and professional interest in environmental issues grow as she acted as permanent representative to the United Nations Environment Programme.
Now semi-retired and working as an academic, teaching public policy and carrying out research on how science can best serve the world’s poorest billion people, she can devote more time to projects that she is passionate about – and promoting bamboo and rattan is certainly one of them. When asked why she is interested in these, she replied; ‘It’s such a versatile and multi-functional substance – I remember a story when I was young called the Shmoo, about a magic animal that could be used for anything, and even wanted to get cooked into dishes – that’s just like what bamboo is, a real-life Shmoo!’
Edwards’ comparison contains a cautionary tale, since the Shmoo in the original 1948 satirical comic strip was nearly hunted to death by greedy opportunists. She underlined to INBAR the importance of careful management of global bamboo resources, saying that her role as co-Chair will be as an agroforestry advocate for an integrated ecosystem.
INBAR is in a globally unique position as an intergovernmental organisation headquartered in Beijing, China. This fascinating environment provides an interesting stage for Edwards to work on, and affords her plenty of opportunities to experience the longstanding link between bamboo and Asian art, culture, and values. The extraordinary imagery from these ancient arts has gripped Edwards’ imagination – and even though she lives in Ottawa, Canada, with her husband and dogs, she is able to learn more about the culture through INBAR and its longstanding relationships with Chinese bamboo craftsmen, including from INBAR’s key strategic partner towns, Yong’an, Meishan and Yibin.
INBAR congratulates Lucie Edwards warmly on her new position as co-Chair of the INBAR Board of Trustees and looks forward to INBAR’s continued growth under the Board’s direction.