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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

Celebrating the life of Sam Fujisaka

Sam in Leticia, Colombia.  Sam said this was his favourite photo of himself.  Taken by Alonso Gonzalez.

Sam in Leticia, Colombia. Sam said this was his favourite photo of himself. Taken by Alonso Gonzalez.

This morning we received the sad news that DAPA team member, and great friend, Sam Fujisaka passed away.  Over the past 8 months he battled pancreatic cancer, but it got the better of him this morning.

Sam worked with us in CIAT for over 20 years, and we all will remember him very fondly.  He was probably the smartest guy around here, and to many, was a mentor, a friend and a source of enormous fun.  His commitment to his work was tremendous, and his real belief in the power of science to make our world a better place was contagious.  His own research over the years has undeniably contributed to improved wellbeing across many regions of the world.  His insightful strategic mind, and his capacity to synthesise complex issues also helped countless colleagues and friends do the right thing on both a personal and professional level.  He’s influenced a whole generation with his unique mind, personality and outlook on life.

Sam is survived by three daughters, Dana Zsofia, Nicole and Claire.  And his spirit will live on in many of us.  He will be sorely missed by all of us.  Love ya Sam!

Please leave a comment if you knew Sam, and perhaps share a Sam-story – we all have them!

Below a photo which Alexandra Walter refers to in comment number 43.  Sam happy after having made his own salad in the hospital:


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84 responses to: "Celebrating the life of Sam Fujisaka"

  • Alonso Gonzalez says:

    I interacted with Sam in several ways, and all of them imprinted solid memories that wiil last forever. At work, his critical thinking was always something that a lot of us should practice all the time. It is not just to do our job, but to do it well in such a way that fullfill our mission, and serve those who we claim are our clients…the poor small farmers.
    Outside work, his passion for fishing….and our great frustration that after starting our day before sunrise and spending long hours fishing close to the Amazon river, we got nothing but good memories of a beautiful landscape…with 0 fish to take to the kitchen. Something went tremendously wrong that day….and questioned our skills as fishermen. we certainly had a good time and I feel very fortunate to have his as a friend. We will miss you mate.

  • Durante mucho tiempo tuve miedo de Sam. Me parecián muy ácidos sus comentarios y no me sentía a la altura. Después estuvimos juntos en dos, tres talleres que yo facilitaba y me encantó su participación constructiva, la manera en que logró animar a los demás participantes, su dedicación al tema. De ahí en adelante dejé el miedo y me volví fan de Sam.

  • Glenn Hyman says:

    well said Andy!….I will be remembering him when I put together PowerPoint presentations (large fonts, as few words as possible, no filler) and write papers (no BS please!)….. when I drink rum, bourbon or red wine; when I eat in the street in some backwater or around a gourmet table with friends. when he was young he used to ride motorcycles and drive race cars. And if you ever caught a ride with him between Ciat and Cali, it was scary! Sam could be a harsh critic. he sometimes drove his friends away from him. He didn’t care about his own social skills. I don’t blame anyone who was turned off by him. But if you really got to know him, you would know that he was — in many, many ways — brilliant. You would know that he had a good heart.

  • Miguel Saravia says:

    No he trabajado directamente con Sam, sin embargo lo conocí y fui tocado por su acidez y su diversión. He visitado el CIAT muchas veces, pero curiosamente conocí a Sam muy lejos… en alguna de las reuniones que tuvimos con el CPWF. Me parece que fue en Laos… Descanza en paz, Sam.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by simonestaiger, CIAT DAPA. CIAT DAPA said: Celebrating the life of Sam Fujisaka. We received sad news that #CIAT_DAPA team member & great friend Sam passed away.: http://bit.ly/ajaUER […]

  • Sophie Alvarez says:

    I had the good fortune of working with Sam in a couple of evaluations and projects. But most of our friendship was through his fatherhood. Dana and my daughters Silvana and Antonia grew up together in the CIAT jardín, and shared playdates in our home and the Douthwaite’s in Dapa. His dedication to Dana was always seen in these event.
    After and during kiddie playdates in Dapa, the grown ups would party- drink, sing, eat and talk lots of crapola- 3/4 of which Sam was very good at!
    Sam insisted in cooking for us, happily preparing complicated and astounding dishes. He was a ‘cooking snob’ and insisted on things being done ‘just so’, so it was impossible to help him in the kitchen. Up to very recently, he gave the nurses and kitchen staff at the hospital food preparation lessons, a quixotic endeavor in these hospitals.
    On our last trip to the US west, one of Sam’s ‘patrias’, he gave us a detailed travel plan with sites and roads not to be missed. It was excellent. We followed what we called ‘the Sam plan’ and got to see many things we would have missed otherwise.
    Sam leaves behind a group of Dapa and Dapa ex-pat friends.

  • Idris Jones says:

    Well, what can I say about Sam. Great all around guy once you really got to know him, and I mean you really had to be at his levels on things. I remember my sister didn’t like him at first because of his snappy comments, but I hit right back with my own and he sort of took me in for that.
    He was the first person who taught me how to drive (that’s probably why I used to crash alot! haha) I then had to get proper driving lessons in UK. I remember how he hated my valluno accent, taking the micky out of my “mira ve” etc, and how he used to make fun of my scrawny arms back in the day… trying to make me go to the gym etc
    He was also much needed pal for my dad on all fronts, work and personal, although some times on the wrong end of the stick, you know he always meant well by what he said or did.
    I won’t spoil this by any negatives (as everyone has them) but will remember Sam always as a cheerful guy although very stubborn I must say.

    Sam you will surely be missed.

  • Andy Jarvis says:

    My three memories of Sam are around whisky, beer and wine.

    Whiskey was the drink when we first met at a dinner, and from across the table came a barrage of questions and comments about climate change and biodiversity from Sam – I was 23 and didn’t know what had hit me.

    Beer was the drink when the two of us really connected in Washington whilst doing some work with the GEF – the two of us were working together seamlessly, and whilst i was very much the young grasshopper and he the master, this experience built the foundations of serious respect and complete honesty between the two of us.

    Wine was the night that we drank copious amounts and fixed all the problems of the Amazon, then realised we’d actually gone all through the night, and i had a flight in 45 minutes that i was about to miss. Irresponsible i know, but Sam drove me to the airport, and we were giggling all the way there.

    From whiskey to wine, through beer, Sam was a mentor, a friend and probably the most interesting and stimulating person i have ever known. His controversy made him who he was. Unique, and brilliant.

  • Andy Jarvis says:

    …and Sam – if you are listening out there: Now you’re gone, I’m officially the fastest guy on the Recta! And my sushi was always better than yours. You jackass!

  • Justine Blanford says:

    Well said Andy and Glenn. I had the pleasure of knowing Sam while I was at CIAT and will miss him greatly. He was brilliant at all levels. He worked hard, played hard and enjoyed life to the limit while at the same time keeping things simple. I enjoyed learning from him and valued his spirit and feedback. I hope I am as vivacious as he has been at 60! Best of all he was a great cook and always up for a cooking challenge. I enjoyed our many kitchen workouts, cookouts at his finca and the many beers/wine/whiskey!!!

    Miss you Sam and thanks for everything.

  • Edith Hesse says:

    When driving to spend a long weekend with several friends in Salento (where Sam as usual, excelled with his cooking miracles), we had time for long chats in the car on many different topics, mainly history, cooking, and spritiual issues. In this occasion he also mentioned that this was the first trip with a female driver, when he felt completely confident and secure and didn’t have to raise any complains!

    A few weeks ago I still brought him some Austrian cakes, which he had appreciated so much in previous pot-luck meetings with friends.

    Rest in peace Sam!

  • Idris Jones says:

    Jarvis, you made me laugh to histerics on the last one! I also remember Sam’s great cooking, usually endedup with small arguments between my parents and him on whats the best way to cook something etc. He knows best he always said, my mum just let it pass.
    always with the spicy meals, between Sam & my dad they’d have sort of contests to see who could make the spiciest meal, or where you could get the hottest chillies etc. I once made an error and tried one of his “not so spicy” mexican meals and it blew my head right off!!

  • Rafael Posada says:

    Comparti muchos años de trabajo con Sam. El fue uno de los arquitectos del proyecto ASB, Alternatives for Slash and Burn, que tuvo grandes logros en los tres continentes. Sam fue uno de los pioneros en la evaluación del impacto de la investigación agrícola en la amazonia. Valdría la pena hacer el esfuerzo de recopilar en un solo sitio varios de sus artículos y publicaciones. En ellos se encuentra un legado precioso de conceptos y opiniones de un profesional comprometido con el desarrollo sostenible.

  • Justine Blanford says:

    Sounds like we all should have a good toast to Sam! Better find a well aged whiskey that is full of body

  • Guy Henry says:

    I will drink to Sam’s life herafter…
    Being the appropriate way Sam would gladly approve of…
    I just called Colombia and talked to Alonso who filled me on the sad final details.

    I worked w Sam, especially in SE-Asia (Vietnam), trying to evolve a NIPPON cassava project into something more farmer participatory… Our “uncle” Reinhardt was probably the principal recipient of our endless discussions on “best practices”. Thus we shared many a bowl of rice, and probably even more cups of beer…. Our chemistry was obvious and total hilarious. He called me the Bloody Dutch, and he was the Damn Jap….. We shared a perfect balance of hard and itelligent work and good fun.

    It is a pity that i did not see him these last 10 yrs. The fact that he hung on at CIAT as a consultant, “remarried” twice and had two more daughters is a feat worth “intense discussions”…

    Given Sam’s budhist inclinations, what would be his reincarnation????

  • james cock says:

    Sam probably got more into his 60 years than most of us will even if we live to ninety. Sharp, questioning the conventional, rigorous,straight to the point and live hard are a few phrases that come to mind when one thinks of Sam.

  • Silvia Elena says:

    “HOLA”, nuestro saludo. “SUPER”, su palabra de aprobación. “PERFECTO” su agradecimiento máximo.

    De su humor negro y su comunicación no verbal (gestos) podemos hacer un gran diccionario. Un diccionario de interpretaciones y aceptaciones según tú cercanía.

    Como buen observador y perfeccionista sabía quien era cada quien. Quienes lo tenían como amigo el tiempo y la distancia sólo fueron dos elementos mas que enriquecían la amistad. Nunca cambió.

    Era muy buen conductor para algunos, para mi el peor, él siempre lo supo. “Ha sido el único que se le estallan dos llantas del mismo lado y controla la situación”. Sobre este tema anécdotas por doquier.

    Fue el único que hizo tomar mas de dos vasos de vino a nuestra amiga Ligia, no se cual era su secreto o tal vez si……..la escuchaba o simplemente se interesaba en su conversación para dar consejos.

    En algún momento de forma jocosa le escribí: “Dicen que los que tienen ojos rasgados tienen poderes extraordinarios. Quizás el secreto está en que ven las cosas de modo diferente… “ y así fue y lo demostró en ese momento. Ahora veo que toda su vida fue así.

    Para muchos miedo para mi respeto……Siempre estarás con nosotros

  • Mark Lundy says:

    Sam lived life on his terms, rarely took the accepted as gospel and instilled in me a serious respect for street / market food as the pinnacle of local cuisine despite what the guidebooks (or good sense) might say. An invigorating person to work with and a great person to talk to about nearly any topic. His insights and endless questions led to better understandings and will be missed but his drive to find simple, pragmatic solutions that work for farmers will live on in all of those whom he touched.

  • Barun Gurung says:

    Here’s to you bro..you were one helluva guy!!

  • Sarah Tisch says:

    I had the priviledge of working with Sam at the IRRI Social Sciences Division. His dedication to bringing farmers to scientists and the best of science to farmers was awesome. I was with him and his first wife Peachy when Claire came into this world, and saw his delight at being a father. Blessings on your memory Sam.

  • Lisa David says:

    I have several very clear memories of Sam. I remember attending Dana’s 1st birthday party at the home of Joaquin Voss and Sam had Dana sitting on his lap at one point. I remember his expression of pure joy at the little girl in the pink, hello-kitty bikini on his lap and he simply said “Is that a baby or what?”. He later passed Dana to Nancy Johnson’s lap where I believed she peed on Nancy’s pants.

    I also remember that he and Marisol came to pick me up at my apartment one day so that we could take our daughter’s shopping for clothes. I was unaware of his driving style and I saw a man litterally leap out of the way as Sam zoomed down the road. I took a taxi home with my daughter! Sorry Sam, too much adventure for me 🙂

    I also remember him taking us out to eat one time and it was some very small shack on the side of the road where I think we paid about 2,000 pesos for an enormous plate of food and it was shockingly delicious. How did he know about that place?

    There was also the time that I went to his office and saw a beautiful painting on his desk done by a child. It couldn’t possibly be Dana’s work as she was too small at the time and he proudly told me that it was done many years before by his first daughter who was now a teenager. He had kept it all those years on his desk. I thought that was so sweet. I think everyone who has commented is right that he could be a difficult person, but there was a kindness in that man that is impossible to deny.

    Rest in peace Sam 🙂

  • Thomas says:

    all rough and tough on the outside, but inside with a great heart (not always willing to show it, though), and like all of us with his own demons. hermano, we will certainly miss you. i enjoyed the time we spent together as friends and colleagues during the last 20 years. roughing it out in the coffee fields of huehue in guatemala, in matagalpa backwaters, or in chiapas in mexico was certainly an experience. sam, you were a maestro and mentor in many aspects (i had never seen anybody connecting more easily with tough nosed growers during the day and then in the night drinking a (mine) bottle of zacapa rum so fast as you did during that great time in coban). but hermano, your horse riding skills really suck. remember that poor horse of memo’s that did not really know what to do with you? in your next life, that should be a priority to work on. we never got around doing the fishing trip to the pacific, lets just keep it for next time. sam, i thank you for all the valuable experiences, up to the very last moment, helping to understand that all things are always impermanent … love you my friend

  • Marco van den Berg says:


    See you on the rooftop buddy, keep some beers cold for the rest of us.


  • Elizabeth Barona says:

    Sam fue una de esas personas que facilmente podia ser querido u odiado por su forma de ser indescriptible, pero que finalmente terminaba sorprendiendote. En el tiempo que trabajo con nosotros conocimos muchas de sus facetas tanto en el trabajo como personales y fueron talvez esas las que mas disfrutamos: “El chino” cocinero, amante al picante y a los cocteles mas extranos, el chino loco en el volante, pero tambien el chino que mas sabia de deforestacion y de la Amazonia. Lo importante Sam es que al final siempre seras recordado!

  • Andy Nelson says:

    This is a great page to bring a smile on a sad day and some great memories too.
    I’ll keep it short and simple (a la Sam): The most engaging and likeable pain-in-the-ass I have ever met. I’ll be joining many in raising a glass or two to Sam tonight.


  • Andy Farrow says:

    From hot tubs in Cartagena, impromptu percussion sessions in San Antonio, blanket-shrouded kingly plays in El Turco, to rum and football in Nairobi.

    When I arrived at CIAT over 13 years ago, Sam was like a mystical being, spoken of in hushed tones, admired by many, misunderstood by the rest.

    It took two months to get an invitation to his apartment, on my first birthday in Colombia. I was amazed by the quality of the wine, the quality of the whiskey, the quality of the food and the quality of the person and the impulse to challenge, motivate and celebrate those of us lucky to have shared part of his life.

    Sam was a teacher and taught me about photography (I hope his photos from Bolivia are displayed), about teryaki sauce at his finca in Peñas Blancas, about separating ‘cultural’ from ‘personal’, and about simply doing good science.

    While Sam’s official despedida from CIAT (an irreverent affair enjoyed by all his friends) was a long time ago, his spirit of science lives on in us and guides us.

  • Boru Douthwaite says:

    Those of us who know Sam at IRRI will celebrate his memory with a few beers tonight.

    Sam, IRRI and I go back a long way. Before I first went to IRRI twenty years ago I was briefed by someone who had just come back. I only remember one thing from the briefing — there is this guy at IRRI called Sam Fujisaka who is a great guy to have a beer and a chat with, but has a complicated love life. Sam’s fame proceeded him. Then when I arrived I lived right next door to my landlady, who was Sam’s girlfriend, so I saw a lot of him, in passing. My girlfriend had been a good friend of Sam’s ex so we never really hung out.

    Then ten years later I came to CIAT and it was then that I got to know Sam properly. I remember Dana was born just before we arrived with our own very young daughter. Sam, Marisol and Dana came to visit us often in Dapa. Sam and Cristina could actually cook together, or at least negotiated a detente (that usually involved me collecting bags and bags of lemons for Sam to take home with him). For awhile we did a lot of Cabalgatas. On one of the last Sam claims he and his horse feel down a small ravine and if it wasn’t for some amazing quick wits and skill on Sam’s part he would have been crushed. I forget the details except it was Norbert’s fault :-).

    So many other memories — driving to Salento with Sam following like a limpit on my bottom — Sam finally agreeing to sing karaoke when he was completely drunk and it being rather weird — imagining Sam as a member of the Gay Piscums band — scouring Dapa looking for Sam in the wee hours when he had walked off in a huff — Sam telling me that he gave people he liked nicknames, and not being sure I liked “boreyou” — telling me he loved me (after lots of wine) and later (sober) telling me I was about as much use as (read this in Sam’s voice) “teats on a borehog”.

    Gosh, I realize I could go on and on. Sam, love you mate, and I am going to miss you.

  • A great guy, who knew a lot but wore his learning lightly and was always willing to share it, who worked hard and played hard. They don’t really make them like that any more.

  • Carmen de Vicente says:

    Conocí a Sam en 2005 durante una pequeña reunión de expertos en CIAT para definir una estrategia de transferencia de productos de investigación para el Generation Challenge Programme (GCP). Sus intervenciones rompieron moldes en casi cada ocasión, y cuando se daba cuenta de que la mayoría no seguía su razonamiento, se frustraba y me decía que ya no quería participar. Se iba,….pero volvía. A fin de cuentas, el tema le interesaba y la polémica también. El ultimo día plasmó su visión en un dibujo, con forma de OVNI o de champiñón, el primero que usamos en el GCP para explicar las interacciones entre los distintos tipos de comunidades involucradas en el programa, incluyendo investigadores, colaboradores y usuarios potenciales.
    Luego Sam participó en una consulta que hice a Glenn y sus colegas para hacer un ejercicio de priorización tomando pobreza y riesgo de sequía como base. El trabajo fue muy interesante, y como siempre Sam ayudó a mantenernos enfocados. En aquellos días, las reuniones acababan a la hora de ir a buscar a Dana, a quien adoraba, a la guardería de CIAT. Unos meses más tarde decidimos que Sam presentara los primeros resultados en una de las reuniones del grupo de gestión del GCP en México. Estuvo de acuerdo solamente si le aseguraba que el conductor iba a llevarlo a comprar queso Oaxaca antes de volver al aeropuerto.
    Hablé con él hace unos meses cuando estuvo en el hospital. Dos minutos de conversación que me levantaron el ánimo, cuando fui yo la que debí levantarle el suyo.
    En México, donde vivo ahora, dicen que una persona solamente muere cuando ya nadie se acuerda de ella. Estoy segura de que Sam estará con nosotros mucho tiempo.

  • Roger Sleep says:

    For those that never worked with Sam, like myself,he will be remembered for the social times spent together. His professional brunches seemingly thrown together but professionally prepared and served just late enough to be accompanied by some amber liquid. The fishing trips around the lakes in Cali and the ensuing filleting and cooking of whatever we caught and naturally accompanied by good wine. The parties in Dapa that went on into the early hours with Sam insisting on driving back down to Cali but with the promise of another whisky deciding to stay overnight.
    The times were good and made even better by Sam’s intellect and humour.
    We shall miss you but in the knowledge that for those of us that knew you, you enhanced our lives in one way or another. The one lingering memory will be the word “Jackass” echoing around the Dapa landscape. Thanks Sam

  • Rod Lefroy says:

    I first met Sam when he was at IRRI. A friend and I went to meet him in his office to discuss some field research we were about to start in the Philippines. He had two very uncomfortable stools set up for us in front of his desk and before we even landed on the stools he set forth with a tirade on our stupidity in trying to do what we wanted to do! This was the first of many lessons from Sam, and as on quite a few occasions, he was doing a great job playing the devil’s advocate. He always made you think and often had brilliant suggestions. There was a political party in Australia whose unofficial motto was to “keep the bastards honest” – and I think they borrowed that from Sam.
    Sam had a rare capacity to kept people on their toes, whether in a seminar, “relaxing” over a beer, cooking (I learned very quickly to keep quiet), and especially when driving (the only time I have been airborne in Cali when not on a plane). The only time I knew there was no need to steel myself for the next very smart comment was when discussing children, his or ours, when his gentlest of gentle sides came out.
    A very rare spirit who will live on in the memories of all who met him.

  • Hubert Zandstra says:

    At IRRI, as a member of the roof top gang, I got to know Sam as an unforgiving scientist and supportive friend. My last years at CIP were enlightened by the occasional get together with Sam in Lima or Cali, each one always memorable. We’ll see you at the rooftop in the sky Sam.

  • Matthew Gable says:

    I never worked with Sam but I had the good fortune to hang out with him at Dapa Social Club parties at Hacienda Douthwaite. Sam was an excellent cook (his sushi, spectacular Asian dinners, and an excellent breakfast at Blancas). Sam was an excellent drinker – I remember hiding the good scotch when Sam was coming over, but later relenting and breaking out the Talisker. I remember fearing for my life and that of my family as Sam drove us from Las Pavas to Dapa in about 15 minutes. Sam and I are both from California, so we talked about that place on familiar terms. I remember Halloweens and karaoke parties with the cynical, yet hilarious commentaries given by Sam over a broad range of subjects. He is the only person in Colombia to call me “dude”. I remember him saying he never lost at Scrabble and then lost the first time we played. Anyway…I am rambling off from broken memories. Goodbye Sam. Love you man.

  • Beatriz Narvaez says:

    I also have the chance to met Sam and participate in discussions around a bottle of wine, although I was scared some times to be confronted by him in the ways he used to do it, but fortunately I am not involved in science, his passion, and our conversation were around different subjects. He is and will be always reminded for his exquisite food, spicy and with a special taste, his sense of humor and the special relationship with his daughter Dana. We will miss you Sam, rest in peace.

  • Zeny Huelgas says:

    Sam, a lot of us will remember you for your humor and wits, but, it was how you kept your feet on the ground (such humility!) that I’d remember you by. The project we worked on in the mid 80s was rather short but the good impression you left in a young person’s mind was rather lasting. Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven? 🙂 Cheers for a life well-lived!

  • Grégoire Leclerc says:

    Too bad Sam is gone, this is so sad… He was one of the people I wanted to talk to again if I had a chance to go to Cali. I remember a perfectionist guy that could be either hilarious or dead serious in his unique way, and never boring. I read some of his papers while at CIAT and it was enlightening. He also taught me to hold fireworks in my hand while firing them, which was a bit scary at first, and then super fun (ok, we were drunk). OK Sam, now enjoy the good afterlife!

  • Xavier Scheldeman says:

    I did not know Sam very well, but I spent some interesting moments with him at meetings in the Amazon. I recall some remarkable culinary escapades a local food stalls in Belem, which he seemed to prefer over fancy restaurants. And of course, I will always remember him for suggesting a focus on Sustainable Land Use Types, shortly “SLUTs”, by this adding much needed humor and perspective to a long Amazon Initiative meeting. His energy, expertise and critical mind, combined with his excellent sense of humor will surely be missed.

  • Rupert Best says:

    Sam, didn’t know you well, and like many I was bit oveawed by your ‘in your faceness’. But I had a huge respect for your ability to cut through the crap. Happy memory? A hilarious evening with Dai in your apto – just what we needed during a stressful annual review week. Keep playing, Sam.

  • Laure Collet says:

    I remember that I always knew Sam since I arrived in CIAT 6 years ago but it took quite a long time before we really start to talk together. We worked together on several projects but the first “real” talk we had was close to a barbecue at Thomas’place in DAPA. We were both so happy to find someone else who liked uncooked meat that we did eat meat all afternoon (I remember that some people looked our red meat with a disgusted face as long as we were laughing and enjoying our meal).
    So, obviously Sam was a great cooker, he was one of the most interesting and inspirational person I worked with, but I must confess that this story will always be special for me and I will always remember him as the only one I met in Cali who knew about uncooked meat…

  • Carlos E. Lascano says:

    Sam for DG”, was what I would say when I Sam saw in the parking lot or in the snack bar. I would say that to Sam because I truly believed that he had many of the things needed to be a DG: intelligence and the sufficient understanding of how agricultural research should be managed to contribute to food production and poverty alleviation. What Sam lacked to be a DG was diplomacy. He would say it as he saw it and this created a great deal of antibodies around him. In spite of what some would call a strong personality it was great to work with Sam in the development of new projects. He formed part of a Task Force led by me to define what CIAT could and should do in research aimed at the recuperation of degraded lands. The strategies, outputs and research activities agreed by the Task Force, mostly contributed by Sam, served to develop a proposal to the GEF on reclamation of degraded lands which unfortunately was not funded due to political reasons. Sam latter developed the framework for what was called the Amazon Initiative and that served as basis for an ecoregional program for the Amazon, which was an ecosystem that he understood very well both from a biophysical and social dimensions. Sam in no longer with us, but fortunately he left behind so many accomplishments that will help us remember him.

  • Axel says:

    Since I met Sam at CIAT he used to call me “Smiling Axel” (in fewer occasions “Herr Lagerkommandant”), and he taught me more than one lesson with his harsh critics but also spending time to help me out. We had great days together out in the field in Nicaragua, and great nights with Flor de Cana, he taught me Asian cuisine in the Philippines and a lot of things more …. but I never knew why he called me “Smiling Axel” – we will miss you Sam, and when I look at that photo from Cagayan de Oro … there is a smile on my face … hasta siempre

  • Oh what can I say about Sam? What a guy! Sam affectionately called me CGNET, drank my whiskey a few times he was in my house, and gave me unconditional support whenever I needed it. Sam once offered to give me a ride, but I declined the offer telling him “I love you Sam, but I don’t love you more than my life” My husband Arjan and I talked to Sam and saw him via Skype not too long agi. We both thought that he looked great and we told him so. I am just so sad to lose such a great friend. I will always love you Sam! Rest in peace now, because you partied and worked so hard. You lived life to its fullest.

  • Enna Diaz says:

    Tuve solo dos oportunidades para estar cerca de el…La primera fue cuando lo visite despues de la cirugía, ese día sali de allí percibiendo un gran vacio que El tenía en ese momento. y la segunda fue en la fiesta de despedida del 2009; pero con solo estos dos acercamientos, a SAM lo puedo definir como !UNA GRAN TERNURA ENCAPSULADA!.

  • Alexandra Walter says:

    Even though I met Sam many years ago, I was not really a close friend until August last year when he found out about his cancer. My “assignment” was to accompany him until the end came. Soon the “assignment” became a heartfelt desire to make him happy, to make his last days the most enjoyable of his life, in spite of the situation. And I think that with the help of my family we were able to achieve this. We “adopted” him and his three daughters as honored guests in our home.

    We learned that the best treat for Sam was to cook special things for him and then enjoy his “hmm, hmm” while he ate heartily—which he did in spite of the cancer and the chemotherapy. So when he refused to eat these last two weeks, I knew very deep inside that very few days were left.

    The other best treat for Sam was to let him cook and then applaud his wonderful meals. That filled him with joy. Knowing this, after his surgery in August, I smuggled into the hospital a knife, a cutting board and 6 o 8 tiny containers with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, vinegar, and mustard, and he had the privilege of “cooking” himself a salad. That made him very, very happy (see the picture)

    And that was the best lesson that Sam left me: that the smallest things of life are those that provide the greatest amounts of happiness!

    Thank you Sam, wherever you are! I feel this 8-month experience has been a gift of life!


  • Jan Borner says:

    In the line of many other comments here: When preparing my presentation for the workshop during which the photo at the top was taken, Sam started picking on me for recommending all sorts of incentives for people to behave in an environmentally more sustainable manner: “If people shit in the street they certainly don’t do so, because they want to be paid for avoiding it. It is just that there probably is no appropriate place to shit! That was when we got friends and since then “What would Sam say?” is the ultimate reality check for my presentations.

    Love you Sam! You still had to work hard on your German accent though!

  • Candace Grover says:

    I will miss Sam terribly. We were Chowhound friends and I loved discussing food and cooking with him. I urged him to find a reason to come to Indiana, to Perdue and come on down to Bloomington so we could so some cooking together. He was funny, a gentle man and did not deserve such a cruel death. He told me last fall about the pancreatic cancer and I have shed many tears and mourned this for the duration. rest in Peace Sam, you were loved and respected. Hope to see you on the other side one day.

  • Vicky Martinez says:

    A un habitante de tantos lugares del mundo……buen viaje.A donde quiera vayas ahora.
    Hiciste de tu vida una irreverente y constante aventura, la cual comparti entre la buena cocina, los buenos amigos y el buen vino, en unas cuantas reuniones en la casa de los douthwaite.
    Esta fue la parte en que coincidimos en el camino y desde donde hoy te recordaremos siempre con una sonrisa.

  • Annie says:

    Wipe your tears and rest in peace. You’ll never be forgotten. I will always cherish all your beautiful and wonderful memories with me and all of our friends. Here’s sending you off with lots of love, kisses, prayers, and yellow roses. Say Hi to Kharki from me.


  • Cristina de Leon says:

    I always felt conflicted when it came to Sam, and that is because he was a rather complex person. He was sharp, volatile, witty, proud, charming, exasperating, smart. He can be overly critical and yet, highly appreciative of people. Sometimes hot, sometimes cold, but never lukewarm.

    I met Sam at IRRI in 1994 but I never got to know him well until my family moved to Colombia many years later. He was the only other person who can speak Tagalog in Cali. We partied, went fishing together, did a few trips to the mountains…He was one of the most interesting people I’ve ever known. He cooked like a pro and drank like a fish…and his confidence was such that at one point, he dared to teach a Laotian how to cook laab properly! He made me laugh, he made me angry. He was a force of nature, he was a lot of fun. I will miss him greatly.

    Here are some photos we have of Sam.

  • Scargod says:

    I was on Chowhound for years. Sam was well respected there. Quoting Sam, as gospel, was common. His demeanor was of a calm teacher until it changed a little, some months before his death. Perhaps his directness became more urgent. Perhaps his patience diminished. I had a harsh Chowhound persona and I felt like Sam had picked up some of my bad habits.
    I corresponded with Sam for about a year and we interacted on Chowhound. That’s it. We both raced cars in our youth. Both opinionated cooks; not always on the same page. That’s how it is with friends. You can disagree and be friends.

    I was telling Sam about an old Dutch friend who had taught me many new things. Sam said, “Yes, it is always great to sometimes glimpse backwards to those who led your way.” I’m sure many of Sam’s friends will say that one day.
    On another occasion I sent him pictures of a meal shared at Mark’s (AKA Passadumkeg), place and Sam said, “Thank you! You can easily taste the food and friendship from here through the photos. Abrazos”
    Abrazos, my friend. Though we never shared a meal I feel as if we shared much more.

  • Josh Brann says:

    I only had a chance to know Sam for a short while, while working on a project together in 2009. In that brief period I made a friend, and I’m very sorry that he’s gone so soon. We contrasted and complimented in professional matters, but at the end of the day we were always on the same page: time for a bourbon, to share a laugh, and stories about the outdoors, family, food, life. Sam, you remain an inspiration. I look forward to the next shared drink, whenever that may be.

  • Neeraj Negi says:

    Sam was a wonderful person: smart, caring, humane, and articulate. I came to know him through our interactions at the Global Environment Facility. Its sad that he has left – but then he also leaves a legacy of contributions to the cause he believed in. My condolences to his family on their bereavement.

  • Meike Andersson says:

    Sam was truly a free spirit. Like Alex, I am deeply grateful for these last 8 months which I also feel were a gift of life because it allowed our friendship to grow even closer, and gave me the chance to let Sam know the deep admiration that I feel for his work and brilliant thinking, and the cariño for him as a friend. My first encounter with Sam was typical (though I didn’t know by then): I had just arrived at CIAT -fresh from University- to start my PhD studies. We met at one of the then-famous CIAT parties in San Antonio where someone introduced us. Sam asked about my work, I explained my project to him, and the only thing I remember then was a cascade of comments and reasons why the work was ill-designed and completely useless. I didn’t know what to reply and just kept nipping at my beer quietly.
    The next day I went to his office and we talked about an hour about how I could improve my thesis. That was the start of our 10-year friendship. Even though Sam was (slightly) more respectful with women than with his male mates, this did not save me from occasional lovely insults which I happily returned. One of the nicest compliments he made me was when he told me (drunk of course) that I were his favourite sushi-companion because I always had this big smile on my face when eating sushi that reminded him of the “Grinsekatze” from Alice-in-Wonderland. I will dearly miss our wednesday “all-you-can-eat” sushi sessions in Granada. But I will surely not forget the Laos dinner that you still owe me man, so you better have it ready when we meet again in our next lives! I hope your German has also improved by then – or do you have Google translator up there…? Luv you forever Sam.

  • Almevicruz says:



  • Roger Kirkby says:

    Such sad news. I first came across Sam as just an author’s name on interesting scientific papers from his IRRI and Philippine days — and it was then a really pleasant surprise to find him a colleague at CIAT. Over the years afterwards, I never felt that a visit to Cali was complete unless I had the opportunity to get insights, cutting critique, and a sample of his generous hospitality in various mostly liquid forms from Sam, and especialy appreciated his unflagging efforts to introduce social and economic relevance whenever technical discussions lacked that perspective. I hope he is reading the comments above now – and that, even in his lonelier moments in the past, realised just how many people loved him. I am sure you are usefully stirring things up just a little, even up there!

  • Patrick Lavelle says:

    Reading all these stories and comments, I feel happy to have known most of the key elements of his personnality (except the fishing activity… what a shame!!), a wonderful chinese meal to celebrate this years Chinese new year at Alexandra’s place, a couple of rejoicing scientific discussions while drinking good wine at the right temperature… and the sadness of losing a friend, having known him only one year ago.

  • Jim Litsinger says:

    I knew Sam from IRRI. He lived in Los Banos and worked on a social forestry project while his wife Lois had a job at IRRI. I knew him at first from his fast driving as he would zoom around the town on a motorcycle. As as a motorcyclist myself he made an impression. Later he was able to join IRRI and became the fourth anthropologist that I worked with there. We quickly became good friends as we worked at a number of research sites. The most prominent was Claveria the upland rice site where we worked closely. We worked hard and played hard. This was one of the highlights of my stay at IRRI to go on motorcycles to various trials and discuss them in great detail and in the evening have a few cold ones. He enjoyed life to its fullest. His beloved Oregon Ducks did so well this past year but unfortunately he could not watch them in Columbia. He was a long distance runner and went to Oregon which has a great history of track. I remember when we were in Koronadal in S. Cotabato that I told my staff of his ability at long distance running. One of my staff followed him in a motorcycle and was very impressed with how far he could run. As an anthropologist he taught me a lot and I enjoyed our interactions. He was too young to go away so soon.

  • Sam Yeaman says:

    It’s been six years since I left Colombia, but I still remember the impact that Sam had on me as a young scientist and a relative greenhorn in Latin America. Lots of nights fueled by good food and drink and long discussions and debates…My time spent in Cali would have been much less rich and interesting without these. I think the first time I met Sam might have been up on Andy’s terraza in Miraflores…He came over too cook some dinner and drink some wine and we argued pretty much endlessly, but with big smiles on our faces. Always a good joust.

    Thanks for the fishing tips and the chicken heart stroganoff recipe Sam. It worked. I am so sorry to hear that you will not be there when I come back to visit…

  • Simon Cook says:

    I never exactly pictured where Sam ‘came from’. Sure, I remember what he told me – a miracle in itself given the condition we were normally in when he was telling – but, having never met family or friends outside the CG I couldn’t quite work out where things fitted together. I guess he just lived where he was -the best any of us can do. So what happens now? One thing is sure, Sam will live on through the many, many intense conversations he had with us all and with the profound understanding and interest he shared generously, right up to the end. We also have his pronouncements – over half of which were great, even though some (including his inexplicable adoration of Margaret Thatcher) may have been intended to stir us rather than reach an understanding. It’ll feel very weird coming back to Cali without fixing an ‘Audience with Sam’. I’m grateful for the chance to have done so, many times, over the past ten years and especially over the past few months.

  • Villia Jefremovas says:

    Sam was a paradox.

    A complex man, Sam lived his life with reckless passion, intellectual precision and rigid control.

    Razor blade mind, fierce heart, sharp tongue, gentle soul, passionate friend, merciless critic, loving father, madman.

    Love and anger poured out of him, but if you could stand in the typhoon of his passions, you found his quiet heart.

    Dear Sam, I will miss you

  • Villia Jefremovas says:

    Sam was a paradox.

    A complex man, Sam lived his life with reckless passion, intellectual precision and rigid control.

    Razor blade mind, fierce heart, sharp tongue, gentle soul, passionate friend, merciless critic, loving father, madman.

    Love and anger poured out of him, but if you could stand in the typhoon of his passions, you found his quiet core.

    Dear Sam, I will miss you

  • Ayako Nakamura says:

    I didn’t know Dr. Fujisaka, but as a daughter of a scientist who died in action whilst on duty at IRRI, I’d like to extend my heartfelt condolences to his daughters and wife.

    Dr. Fujisaka has all my respect along with all other scientists who continue to honorably pursue their work to make a positive difference in the world whilst battling a terminal illness to the very end.

  • Dean Holland says:

    The World seems a less colourful place today to hear that Sam isn’t in it.
    Sam’s leaving the kind of legacy that’s the envy of many. I remember at University there was a thin greasy line around some of the journals that had a Fujisaka paper in them – they’d been required reading for a generation of students. For me, I remember his energy more than anything. He was driven – I was always astonished at the horsepower he put into everything he did – thinking, drinking, driving, cooking, cutting through all BS and just trying to make a difference. I can’t see the fictional TV character “House” without thinking it’s a watered-down version of Sam.
    His impish fun and total irreverence made a big influence on me when I was a young postdoc arriving in Cali 12 years ago, and I feel lucky to have spent time with him.

  • Susan Allan says:

    Treading his path from the Philippines to CIAT (Pucallpa, Peru), being a social scientist, and my status as a CIAT fringe-dweller afforded me a high SPF (Sam Protection Factor). So my memories of Sam are as a vibrant, opinionated, yes, but genuine and caring man. Adoration is too weak a word to describe his feelings for his children. Claire, you should know that the time he spent apart from you wounded his soul. He cared for you deeply.

    I greatly respect that Sam wasn’t indifferent to the unintended consequences of his work. Sam was a true advocate for those dispossessed of their livelihoods, land or the power of choice.

    I loved that Sam would say what many thought, but were too concerned for their future career path to voice. No ‘elephants in the room’ possible in discussions involving Sam! For rigorous scientific debate or purely verbal swordplay, the way Sam fully engaged in living, thinking, exploring and observing gave him the insight and empathy to bring the ‘others’ voices’ to the table. Many of us have had our perspectives broadened by Sam (at times reluctantly). For this we all owe you a great debt. Thanks for your courage.

  • Tim and Mai Bertotti says:

    The shortness of our friendship was magnified by its intensity. Sam moved with high energy in directions only he was sure of. His creative genius and big platter of talents put him in a very special category. If you observed him closely you knew his big heart and mind loved much and and thought much. Ever onward into your next venture Dr. Sam.

    Tim and Mai

  • Harry Bottenberg says:

    I just learned that Sam passed away, very sad news. I knew Sam during the early 80’s in Los Banos, The Philippines. I have very warm memories of him. We used to share a beer after working at IRRI until deep in the night. We jogged and worked out together, he was built like a wrestler and could powerlift like no one else. No one could match his broad intellect and his vitriolic sense of humor either. He was a real dude, I’ll always remember him.

  • Wendell Morrill says:

    So sad to hear about Sam, I didn’t know that he was ill. We worked together on field projects in the late 1980s. He was one of the few scientists who took time to work with me and share his view of what life should be.
    I cherish the memories of the good times, and will take care of the hunting knife which was his parting gift when I left. I hope he used and enjoyed my old Judo gi which was given to him in return.
    I always hoped that I could see him again, and we would share some beer and talk about old times.
    Good by, buddy- the your photos brought tears to my eyes.

  • Jose Sanchez Choy says:

    Conocí a Sam, en Pucallpa, Perú. Cuando diseñábamos el proyecto de salud y ecosistemas con Tamsyn Murray y Douglas White, recuerdo varias noches de clases de cocina en la CIAT´s Home, y de una larga conversación en la casa de Doug en San Jose, frente a Yarinacocha Lake. Era popular por sus temperamento, varios divorcios y ácidas criticas, muchos lo veían de lejos, sin embargo era su manera de enfrentar sus propios temores. Era una persona que vivía a su manera, dando todo de si en cada cosa que hacia, lo recuerdo siempre frente a una tabla de picar, preparando algo rápido o una salsa curry. Hombre de viajes y pasiones, descansa en paz SAM

  • Ken Cassman says:

    One of Sam’s most notable rooftop quotes: “Any old chimpanzee can conduct agronomic research”. Classic Fujisaka—partly true, partly in jest, and partly to start an argument. In fact Sam’s greatest ambition was to be an agronomist, and his work at IRRI could be classified as agronomic anthropology!
    Sorry he has left our party at such an early hour.

  • Heidi Pie Aronson says:

    In his Chowhound posts, Sam could make you feel as if you were sitting on a couch together talking with great passion about it all, not typing to a message board halfway around the world from each other. I feel as if I know what his laugh must have sounded like, though we never came close to meeting. And now he has brought us together here and elsewhere in the virtual world. I hope to remember Sam by trying to evoke his qualities in the lives I lead. Deep condolences to his family.

  • Dave Todd says:

    Sam’s passing is a great loss. We worked together on many evaluation issues at the GEF Evaluation Office and I always looked forward to his missions to DC for insightful but humorous debates. He was a great character and a joy to be with and I will miss him dearly. I am glad to have known him and will always remember him fondly.

  • Dale Bottrell says:

    I was so saddened to learn about Sam. He was a highly talented and lovable guy with a huge and diverse circle of admirers. He and I overlapped three years at IRRI in the Philippines, and I had the good fortune to work with him on projects in the Philippines and Vietnam. I especially enjoyed our time together with K.L. Heong (also of IRRI) in Vietnam where we worked with Vietnamese counterparts to set up a farmer participatory research project in rice of the Mekong Delta. Sam never failed to get the attention of – and amaze! – those around him. Seeing him in action in the field was an unforgettable experience and a reminder of just how much he valued small farmers. Sam would spend the day interviewing farmers in their rice paddies, drink all night long, and find more farmers to interview the next day. He was an incredible human with a work ethic and an appetite for life excelled by few. I feel privileged to have known him, and I will forever fondly remember our time together.

  • Sara J. Scherr says:

    Sam’s passing feels like the end of an era to me. He and I were “Rocky doc” social science fellows around the same time–back in the 1980s (I was at ICRAF). He was always one of the most fun people and, as everyone has noted, one of the smartest and most honest and determined to ‘speak truth to power’. I avidly read his research stuff, especially in those early years, and they surely helped to shape my ideas.

    We were out of touch for many years after I left the CG, but I was so pleased to meet up with him again in DC (linked by Meike Andersson)–as it turned out, just before his diagnosis of cancer. We had started making plans to work together, which of course couldn’t happen. But I am grateful to have been able to talk and email with him in his last months.

    To Sam’s daughters and all his family and friends, my sincere condolences. May his memory be a blessing.


  • kate feinstein says:

    I only knew of Sam from his Chowhound postings. I felt like I actually knew him. His passing came as a tremendous shock to me. We all loved and respected him so much. I feel great sadness at his loss but greater joy that I was privileged to know him.

    My deepest condolences to him family.

  • Roberto Porro says:

    I knew Sam since 2003, but it feels like I’ve lost someone who I knew much, much longer. His personality was unique, and I have learned to admire his creativity and insights. I was lucky to be able to visit his home several times, and those were always the highest moments in my visits to Cali. He also came to Belem, Brazil on 3 occasions, and I remember once when after a dinner in a meat restaurant in which he took notes for one of his Chowhound postings, he asked me to go to my house to watch some Ironchef episode at 11 pm! Dana Zsofia, Nicole and Claire will certainly know how more and more, great his father was. Bye Sam!

  • Chris Landry says:

    I was working for the Sustainable Food Lab and was writing our proposal to the Gates Foundation. A rush job, with four collaborating organizations and a complex proposal. After each conference call I’d write a new draft and send it out to a dozen or so people for review. Most focused on content. Then there was this Fujisaka guy who was correcting my grammar and writing. Who the hell *is* this guy, I wondered?

    We met the following year in Antigua, Guatemala, and loved each other like brothers by the end of the meal . Later that week he and Michaelyn and I found a small, empty bar and talked late into the night about life and love and work, making each other laugh the whole time; I remember him telling us that he used to write songs for a gay cowboy band.

    I never saw Sam again but knew I had a friend in Cali.

  • Ken MacKay says:

    I have followed Sam’s ups & downs in the last year via email. But knew him best from SE Asia when I worked with IDRC & ICLARM. We spent enjoyable times in the field–great times in the roof top bar in Los Banos, Philippines –where we tried to solve the world problems–even plotted to take over the CGIAR–Sam did a better job of that than I did. He probably got his Chowhound taste from that bar as it was probably dog we were eating with the beer (although no one acknowledged it).
    Yes Villa’s post sums up Sam paradox’s and we all miss him.


  • kathleen debord says:

    I just learned today about Sam and I’ve read all the comments posted. I’m glad to learn that Sam had so many friends. I met him in high school in Fresno, CA. We went to college together and I was his first of the many wives he had. We went to Tarija, Bolivia together while he did his Ph.D research. I came home without him. He was interesting always, intense always, serious nearly always,funny sometimes, and considerate rarely. Back then he never cooked and had no use for children.I admired his dedication to work and his intellect and I still do . I’m sorry to hear of his passing. We were friends for a while but lost touch, as well as did most of his old friends. He was an important part of my life. He helped me have an interesting life.

  • Richard Sutton says:

    I got the sad news from another of Sam’s old friends from Fresno. I met Sam when he and Kathy(above post)were married. They opened their home and lives to me and we all shared a lot of great music and great fun. At the time, I’d come down to Fresno for a Summer to work on an irrigation job in Selma, CA. I’d just decided to leave college in Oregon and hit the road. I was pretty directionless at the time, so Sam’s life-style and enjoyment thereof was very appealing. I remember him most for his encouragement of my guitar playing. He actually treated me like he really enjoyed it, and would request John Hurt’s tune Creole Belle whenever I came by or he caught up with me. His encouragement has kept me at it for my lifetime. We lost touch more than 30 years ago. I was sorry to hear of his medical issues and passing, but his focus on his work, the importance of that work and his scholarship and sense of humor will be long remembered. I’ll play a few bars in his memory whenever I pick up my guitar. Thanks, buddy.

  • Claire Atsuko Baltasar says:

    I miss my dad. 🙁 So much.

  • Claire Atsuko Baltasar says:

    I miss my dad. 🙁 So much. It’s great to read these comments and know more about him. I only had him for two weeks. And it feels like I’ve known him forever. I haven’t seen or talked to him for about 12 years. But for two weeks, it made me love him more. I’m happy that he has such wonderful friends who care about him. I still wish I knew more about him. But i know he’s with all of us in our hearts. 🙂

  • Brooke Radding says:

    Reading these posts confirmed that this was the Sam that I knew at CSU, Fresno: one smart man.

    “He was a friend of mine.”


  • Beverly Patrick Reeve says:

    May sound like an odd comment. I went to school with Sammy in Fresno CA. I was watching baseball with my husband today, and looking at the great Japanese (decent) players for the A’s. It made me think of “Sammy Fujisaka” from my childhood. My memory of him in K-5 is of this extremely smart child…and the “Artist” of our class always. We all would draw trees with the puffy top and straight trunk. Sammy would make it a work of art, shape, form we would all just stare. Well today I decided to Google Sammy Fujisaka just to see what had become of him, and sadly he has already left this world. The pictures that came up of him, the one making the salad and the one on the boat were so funny. There was the little boy I had known in grade school…older, thinner. To his children I would say I hope you inherited his brains and his humor. My memories are soooo old, but very good. A life well lived.

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