Je m’appelle Etienne Landais, j’ai 63 ans et je dirige le Centre international d’études supérieures en sciences agronomiques (Montpellier SupAgro). My name is Etienne Landais. I am 63 and I am the director of the International Center for Studies in Agronomic Sciences in Montpellier, France.
I spent the first part of my career in West Africa (1975-86) doing research in agronomy. My wife Dominique and I were in Korhogo in the north of the Ivory Coast for our first assignment overseas as were Josh and Jill .We got there several years after the Posner’s had left. Later, he and I discussed this experience: the contact with the Senoufo farmers was for me, as it was for him, a decisive life experience.
After the Ivory Coast, Dominique and I went to Senegal in 1983 where we met the Posner family: Josh, who was working for the same research program as I was, Jill, their daughter Jessica, three at the time, and soon Matthew, born a few months later: practically the same ages as our two older children.
The Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research was setting up a multidisciplinary team in farming systems with technical support from both an American team and a French one. Josh was the specialist for cropping systems and I was the specialist for livestock systems. Our teams quickly melded into one, and for a few years we enjoyed a rare and unforgettable experience. Josh and I have never lost touch since that time.
As all of us know, Josh’s professional life was built on humanistic values and strong social convictions. We shared them to such an extent that we hardly felt the need to discuss them.
Josh possessed, what Claude Lévi-Strauss, (a famous French anthropologist) called, “le gout de l’autre—or “a taste for others”. His empathy, curiosity, and respect for his partners, was the basis of his ability to interact so productively with the farmers of Africa and Latin America. His success in exploring new technologies which were compatible with their resources improved production.
Three years ago, Josh took advantage of a sabbatical year offered by his university, and chose to come to France to the school in Montpellier where we train engineers in agronomy who often work in developing countries. Josh put a lot into his classes and we could see what a wonderful teacher he was: his vast knowledge, his passion for teaching, and the strength of his convictions made him the kind of professor, students truly came to love. The values that inspired him throughout his life, the noble objectives he pursued, and his steadfast perseverance are an inspiration to me and his many French colleagues as well as those all over the world who knew him.
I could go on much longer Josh’s career and the 30 years of friendship that have linked our two families—the fact that Jill and Josh are great friends of France, where they visited often and have many friends here. It was a privilege to have them with us in Montpellier. That year was a period when one our “amitié lumineuse” flowered. We will always treasure it.
Josh aimait à dire qu’il avait eu de la chance dans la vie, mais en vérité c’est lui qui était une chance dans la vie des autres. (Josh liked to say that he had a lot of luck in life, but in truth, we were the lucky ones to have had Josh in our lives.)