Forrest Hill, Ford Foundation

The idea of a research institute in sub-Saharan Africa was first discussed by Forrest Hill and George Harrar of the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, respectively.

In the upcoming publication, IITA: 50 Years After, compiled by Rodomiro Ortiz, he expounds on this: “As told by the late Lowell Hardin, former professor of economics at Purdue University and officer at the Ford Foundation in the early 1960s, many of the original centers of today’s CGIAR were conceived in the daily exchanges of two neighbors traveling to work each day in to New York City. They were George Harrar, the first leader of the Rockefeller-Mexico program and then president of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Forrest (“Frosty”) Hill, then vice president of the Ford Foundation.”

In October of 1963, both of them visited Nigeria to determine the feasibility of this idea. By December of the same year, the Board of the Ford Foundation authorized the submission of the proposal for IITA. Hill and Harrar are now considered founders of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, and most of the other CGIAR centers around the world.

Forrest “Frosty” Hill earned his bachelor’s degree in the University of Saskatchewan in 1923, and a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from Cornell in 1930. Hill spent 25 years as a professor of land economics in Cornell, as chairman of the Department of Agricultural Economics, and as provost of the university. In 1955, he accepted the vice presidency of overseas development for the Ford Foundation.

George Harrar, Rockefeller Foundation

Jacob George Harrar graduated from Oberlin College in 1928, and earned an M.S. in Biology in the Iowa State University, specializing in plant pathology. In 1943, Harrar was asked by the Rockefeller Foundation to lead its Mexican Agricultural Program. Spurred by the accomplishment of the program, Harrar built an agricultural research institute in the Philippines with the help of the Ford Foundation.

The success of this project further led the two foundations to develop three other institutions, one of which was IITA. Harrar devoted the rest of his career to the foundation, until his retirement in 1972.


Forest F. Hill, Randolph Barker, Daniel G. Sisler, Kenneth L. Robinson, 1988,

Jacob George Harrar, The Rockefeller Foundation,

CGIAR, 2012. The CGIAR at 40: Institutional Revolution of the World’s Premier Agricultural Research Network

Lawani, S. 1992. History and Evolution of IITA’s Scientific Program. Sustainable Food Production in sub-Saharan Africa. Ibadan, Nigeria.

Ortiz, Rodomiro, compiler. 2017. IITA: 50 years after. IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria. 120 pages.