The blog of Burness Communications

Remembering Jeff Haskins

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The Burness Communications family is deeply, deeply saddened and profoundly pained by the way-too-early death of Jeff Haskins, our personal friend and extraordinary colleague of nearly nine years.  For four of those years, Jeff led our efforts on the ground in Nairobi, Kenya, and across Africa for BurnessAfrica.   He traveled from Indonesia to Mexico, and most places in between, spreading the message of possibility and hope for agricultural research as a vital tool for the world’s most disenfranchised people. 

Jeff was a one-in-a-million talent.  He was a “rock star” in every room he entered.  He was a confidante and source to reporters the world over who covered global development through the lens of the farmer, the indigenous protector of forests, the scientist devoted to sustaining crop diversity, the advocate fighting to feed the world, the poorest of the poor utilizing new strategies to simultaneously feed themselves and enhance their livelihoods. He knew how to tell their stories and to persuade journalists and policy makers to listen.  He was their voice.

Jeff touched every single person he worked with in an outsized way.  He was a mentor and friend, universally understood to be tireless, brilliant, magnanimous and funny as hell.

We will carry his vision and legacy forward, stunned that there is a “legacy” associated with a vital, charismatic, super-skilled 32 year-old person whose passing leaves us so sad.

Many of Jeff’s friends and colleagues around the world have posted tributes to Jeff online. Below are just a few of those links.

A tribute by Global Crop Diversity Trust:

A tribute by the CGIAR:

Photo tributes by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI):
Jeff’s photography:

A blog post by his friend and colleague, Neil Palmer at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT):

Jeff’s photo featured on the Gates Foundation Photo of the Day:


So sad

Can't believe he's gone. It's so sad, I wish his family and friends strength and courage to go-on without this extraordinary man.

Submitted by Guest on Thu, 10/25/2012 - 9:51am.

Sad loss

Jeff, we never met in person, but we must have spoken on the phone 20 plus times, not to mention the countless emails. It was one of the best working relationships I've known. The five or six media campaigns were all the more brilliant for your insight, wisdom and hard work. Like so many, I feel unfairly deprived of both a colleague and a friend.

The best.

Greg Clough

Submitted by Guest on Fri, 08/17/2012 - 12:15pm.

Jeff's Indelible Influence

My heartfelt sympathy to Jeff's family & Burness Communications.You are in our thoughts & prayers. Jeff touched all of us with his vision, passion, & collegiality. We miss him dearly!
Judi Wakhungu

Submitted by Guest on Tue, 07/31/2012 - 5:28am.

So Sad, So Very Sorry...

Dr. Jeff, my friend... we spoke before you left. Young Jeff was your pride and joy - my prayers to you and the rest of your family and close friends. No more words, just prayers...

Gary Youngling:
Virginia & Arizona

Submitted by Guest on Sat, 07/28/2012 - 4:05pm.

Rest in Peace, Jeff

Wow, Jeff Haskins is dead? This is unbelievable. I first met Jeff at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) about three years ago. I was really inspired by the professionalism I saw in both Jeff and Meredith, especially because we are agemates. I learnt a lot from that short experience.

Godfrey Mwaloma,

Submitted by Guest on Sat, 07/28/2012 - 9:58am.


My sincere sympathy to Dr. Haskins and his family in the loss of their love one. Praying for friends to comfort you, Faith to uphold you, and loving memories to help you smile again.

Darlene Cox

Submitted by Guest on Wed, 07/25/2012 - 6:39am.

Missing Jeff

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Meredith, to her and Jeff's baby, to the Haskin and Burness families. How to bear losing such a wonderful, caring man in such a tragic, untimely fashion. Life is so not fair! We had the opportunity to work with Jeff a few times over the last two years. I met both him and Meredith on assignment in Nairobi, with an introduction through Burness. We were keen on future collaborations. Jeff was curious beyond the story we were asking him to cover. He was an ardent advocate for people with less, for people who were hungry, for people who could have more if they only had access to the right agriculture and technology. If there was a way he could influence policy and public appreciation for a more sustainable future for people using the media, he was all over it. He was quick to make connections about what was possible and what was needed for the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat project, and the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute. He got it. He got it quickly and he made a difference. And so did Meredith. We will miss him. Our deepest thoughts are with you, Meredith.
Linda, with others at the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative

Submitted by Guest on Mon, 07/23/2012 - 10:56am.

Heart of Gold

Jeff was a force of nature with a heart of gold. Outgoing, intelligent, funny, artistic, (talented!), intuitive, and above all, kind. He made a positive impact wherever he went--the world is better off because of Jeff. I'm extremely grateful that he was my friend.

Jonathon Anderson
- Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Submitted by Guest on Mon, 07/23/2012 - 8:37am.

Jeff, may you rest in peace

Jeff, you had many many fans. Always there, always attentive, always responsive.
You will be sorely missed.
Danielle Lucca (CGIAR Fund Office, World Bank)

Submitted by Guest on Sun, 07/22/2012 - 10:03pm.

Jeffrey will be dearly missed....

When I consider the many people who have positively and lovingly touched my life, I am grateful to have known and witnessed Jeffrey growing up and becoming a wonderful, passionate, talented young man and devoted husband...... Although I am deeply shocked and saddened, I find comfort in knowing that he is with GOD, at peace and re-united with Susan (his Mom) and Vickie (his Aunt). I will always cherish their memories...... My sincerest condolences are respectively with Meredith, Christopher, Jeff (Sr.), Mildred, Shirley, his family and Burness. Jeffrey will be dearly missed and all of you are all in my thoughts and continuous prayers! -- Audrey Leak Coates, Laurel, MD

Submitted by Guest on Sun, 07/22/2012 - 4:14am.


While I only had the honor of working with Jeff for a short time, I can truly say that he played a large part in inspiring me and I always think of him. He has never left my mind, and his boundless energy, commitment, and balance of work and life was a driving force in how I have moved forward since I met him. It is a tragedy beyond words that he was taken so young, and my heart goes out to his family and others whom he has touched over his lifetime. My thoughts are with you all, and I am grateful that I was able to know Jeff even for a short time, and no one could soon forget him.


Submitted by Guest on Sat, 07/21/2012 - 5:43pm.


so sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with the family. May God give you peace and comfort.

Crystal Langford

Submitted by Guest on Fri, 07/20/2012 - 11:50am.

Thinking of you

Prayers, love, and hugs to the family, friends, and colleagues of Jeff Haskins, Jr. I'm truly saddened to hear of this loss..
-Christel Earles, friend & coworker of Dr. Jeff Haskins

Submitted by Guest on Fri, 07/20/2012 - 9:58am.


As a friend and colleague of Dr. Jeff Haskins I would like to extend my sympathy. I never met Jeff (Jr.) but reading about him makes it very clear that he was an extraordinary person. My heart aches for you all - co-workers, friends, and especially family. Your are in my prayers and thoughts.
With warmest regards,
Ann Lia Rubio
Riverside Tappahannock

Submitted by Guest on Fri, 07/20/2012 - 8:48am.

A do-er beyond comparison

“Jeff Haskins will take care of that” they told me and I grumbled away to myself, thinking my abilities were doubted.

But then I met the man. And taking care of ‘it’ was what he always did with such flair and determination; chasing the real story, the real impact and covering every possibility.

I had the pleasure of working with Jeff and Meredith on many stories for ICRAF and what a team! Meredith with her efficiency and calm, and always with an encouraging word to make you feel good about yourself. Jeff meanwhile, challenging you, making you think, read and understand more yet always supporting you.

Jeff, your tireless spirit, rare talent and wide smile while sipping a beer after the media has gone home will be sorely missed.

Kate Langford

Submitted by Guest on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 11:02pm.


Jeff, I just heard the news. I'm heartbroken. I love you buddy.

My thoughts and prayers are with Meredith, Jeff's brother Chris, and the rest of their family.


Submitted by Guest on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 7:12pm.

RIP Jeff

It is shocking news when you have learned about the too early death of someone, and when that some one is your friend. This week, I have received such news. I have learned that Jeff has passed away, and that was very shocking.
We met a few months ago in Bangkok, where Jeff and his wife managed to have a break for holiday after all hard work at an agricultural conference days before. It’s Jeff’s time. He enjoyed immersing himself in the crowd, splashing water to them, the activity which is part of the traditional Thai festive event called Song Kran, or a Thai New Year.
Jeff and his wife Meredith had fun and I was happy escorting them around. There I realized that we were not just a colleague who worked with one another at a distance, but also a friend, who could share good experiences to one another.
The day ended when I took Jeff and Meredith to a temple for some relaxation. Jeff was curious. He asked about decorations at a temple, a Buddha image, and among others. He paid attention to a different culture, and there I had no wonder why he managed to work with us across the world.
Jeff was gentle, open minded, but more importantly, he was caring, the crucial reason why he had not just colleagues, but friends all over the world, who will be kept reminding of all good deeds and supports he shared with them over the past years.
Piyaporn Wong
The Bangkok Post

Submitted by Guest on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 2:09pm.

He made it matter.

Jeff made a huge mark on the international science community and beyond. So much of the work of the CGIAR got global attention because Jeff knew how to make it accessible and applicable through some of the world's top media outlets because of the trust and professional respect Jeff had.

I had the great privilage of working with Jeff over a period of some 4-5 years. The last time I saw him was a few months back at a meeting in Bangkok he was covering. I had come with some reluctance to the meeting but when I saw Jeff I thought to myself this meeting IS going to matter because Jeff is covering it.

His genious, excellence, charm, witt, energy, sophistication, and above all professionalism brought meaning to our work, helped it get the attention of key decision-makers with the connections and where-with-all to implement it to help the poor. His stories helped us land $ millions in grants. He helped us make sense of what we do and made us feel good about ourselves, our work and the organizations we represent.

It is hard to believe he is gone. he certainly made a huge mark on the world in the short time he worked with us. I feel very grateful and privilaged to have known him. Sincerest condolenses to his family and Burness.
Helen Leitch, New Delhi

Submitted by Guest on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 11:01am.

Peace and Prayers

Dear Dr. Jeff (and Family):

I'm so saddened to read of the passing of your son, and know your heart must be heavy. Although, I never met your namesake, after reading the beautiful tribute above I see the essence of you in him. When you spoke of him I could hear the pride and love for him in your voice.

Sending you peace and prayers,
Sherry Derby

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. ~Kahlil Gibran

Submitted by Guest on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 9:17am.

Rest in Peace Jeff

I met Jeff briefly on two occasions and worked with him online in several others. I was impressed with his professionalism and helpfulness.

My heartfelt condolences to Meredith, his family, colleagues and friends. For sure his was a short life but he has left a huge and lasting legacy especially in communicating Africa's Agriculture Research.

Catherine, IITA

Submitted by Guest on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 9:02am.



Submitted by Guest on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 7:58am.


may u rest in peace..good and faithful servent...i remember the times i met u at rth with ur dad when u were just a little fellow..both u and ur little brother...u growned to be such a remarkable young man that made ur parents very the family...keep ur heads up and know that god makes no mistakes...praying for ur strenght...god bless!..BURNESTINE HENRY

Submitted by Guest on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 7:43am.

Shocking and saddening news

My sincere condolences to Meredith, everyone at Burness and Jeff's family. I just can't believe he's gone. When I first met him at Agriculture Day in Copenhagen in 2009 he was the authoritative media organizer who put it all together. Jeff's belief in me gave me enormous opportunities and I learned a great deal about media engagement from him. I wish we had had more time to interact on a personal level. I appreciate very much having had the opportunity to know Jeff.

Neil Sorensen

Submitted by Guest on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 7:26am.


I am deeply saddened to hear the news about Jeff. He was the picture of health and vitality, and so very very impressive with his knowledge and skill. Burness and the CGIAR have lost a great asset. I'm so honored to have known him. My sincerest condolences to his family. Lydia Flynn

Submitted by Guest on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 5:46am.

Jeff Hopes You'll Dance!

Going through some pictures and videos with Meredith this morning, and in between howling with laughter and crying, it suddenly struck me...Jeff lived so thoroughly and fully and with such energy and gusto, that he packed about 2 and half lifetimes into one!! That child managed to somehow be "insane to the membrane" when he needed to unwind, but then morph into the ultimate, fully in control professional when he had to "handle his bizness."

This pain we're feeling HAS to mean something other than sheer agony, so I've concluded Jeff's life sends us all a message: If you've got the chance to sit it out or dance, Jeff hopes you'll DANCE!! I know I plan to. And I'll see his beaming, gorgeous smile while I'm doing it

Rachel Jones

Submitted by Guest on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 3:12am.

Thanks for all you taught us and the difference you made Jeff

I keep hearing Jeff say 'so what's the story, Patti?'

The story I want to tell goes something like this:

'There was this guy. Very persistent, energetic and enthusiastic. He'd show up at CGIAR events and pull you aside at some point. And ask very tough questions. All of a sudden you'd realize that the reporter from the Economist had arrived, largely because he liked and appreciated Jeff as much as we did, and was doing a major story. Your little workshop full of incredibly talented, dedicated and smart people might end up as part of it, but only if you got the 'story' right! No pressure though….

He helped improve our work. All of us. He helped us articulate what we thought was obvious, but then again since we were struggling hard to put it crisply, concisely and without sacrificing scientific accuracy, maybe it wasn't so obvious.

That 24-7, on a blackberry, 'can we talk now?' thing shook us up out of our complacency a bit (only a bit, we weren't totally sleeping at the wheel!). Jeff helped us appreciate once again that what we are working on is urgent. It does matter. A lot. But only if we tell the story. You and your colleagues have indeed made a significant contribution to improving the welfare of those that struggle the most.

So thanks Jeff, on behalf of the international agricultural research community. We'll think of you every time we pursue those valuable lessons that you taught us. And tell a good story.' Patti Kristjanson

Submitted by Guest on Wed, 07/18/2012 - 8:20pm.

Thank you Andy! Chris Haskins

Thank you Andy! Chris Haskins

Submitted by Guest on Wed, 07/18/2012 - 9:23am.

Love and Peace too a

Love and Peace too a wonderful Grandson! 'Mom Mom

Submitted by Guest on Wed, 07/18/2012 - 7:12am.

will be sadly missed

I worked with Jeff on several articles and was incredibly impressed by his talent, enthusiasm and ability to get things done. It is a great loss for science in Africa.
Delia Grace, ILRI

Submitted by Guest on Wed, 07/18/2012 - 5:55am.

Such a wonderful person

I am shocked and saddened to hear the terrible news of Jeff’s untimely demise. He has been such a wonderful colleague and friend since we first worked on a project in 2005 while I was at CIFOR. I last saw Jeff in Rio briefly during the Agriculture Day and we were looking forward to working together at the CTA conference in Addis in November.

The African agricultural research and development community has lost a great ally and a talented and generous professional. His great work and unparalleled commitment to the African farmer will be severely missed.

My thoughts and prayers are with Meredith and Jeff’s parents.

Michael Hailu

Submitted by Guest on Wed, 07/18/2012 - 4:04am.

James Karuga

I'm profoundly shocked at hearing we lost a legend in the name of Jeff, we interacted many time in agricultural press conferences in Nairobi he invited us. He is gone too soon its unbelievable, I always loved the calming aura he brought to any press event. I saw him as a fellow Kenyan and my prayers are with his family and team Burness. May GOD richly comfort You. We love You and we will miss You Jeff.

James Karuga

Submitted by Guest on Wed, 07/18/2012 - 3:57am.

Jeff: Gone too soon

I would like to express my deepest sympathy on the sudden death Jeff Haskins who I knew and interacted with for sometime, about six years. I met the late Jeff on several occasions, formally and informally, from within Kenya and without.
Jeff and I had a very cordial working relationship and I was always charmed by his high standards of professionalism and great depths in presenting any issue he had his hands on.
He was one of the prime sources of news for me as a correspondent for SciDev.Net, and later as its Sub-Saharan Africa News Editor. The last time I met Jeff was in Rio de Janeiro at the RIO+20 summit. We had animated conversation and hearty laughs hoping to see one in Nairobi soon after coming back. We discussed a story idea that he felt I ought to pursue. Everything was left for Nairobi, but that never was and will never be.
I am extremely shocked by his sudden death, and at such a young age, and finds it very difficulty to believe that my friend, Jeff, is no more but that is the way of life, we are all headed there.
To Meredith, his family, the Burness Communications team, friends and relatives, I deeply feel for you for the loss. Accept my sincere condolences on the sudden loss of Jeff.

Rest in Peace my friend, Jeff.

Ochieng' Ogodo,

Submitted by Guest on Wed, 07/18/2012 - 3:09am.

My Deepest Condolences

I am stunned by this tragedy, and my heart goes out to Meredith and to Jeff’s family, including his family at Burness. Jeff was absolutely one of the warmest, funniest and most unique and amazing people I have ever been lucky enough to know. His talent and passion for promoting the causes he believed in were endlessly inspiring. My thoughts and prayers are with all the many, many people who loved Jeff and whose lives his presence made so much brighter. Jeff was truly one-of-a-kind, and he will always, always be remembered with love. --Suzanne Davis

Submitted by Guest on Wed, 07/18/2012 - 12:30am.

High School Days

Jeff was a HUGE part of the Severn School Basketball Team in 1996 & 1997. He was always smiling, laughing and enjoying life. But, more than that, he was a great team mate. He was loved and respected. As a Mom of one of his team mates, I saw the team spirit that he exuded and how the team was drawn to him. Prayers for his family and friends, we are so very sad to hear of his passing. Mama Hatch

Submitted by Guest on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 11:05pm.

Remembering Jeff!

It is with great sorrow and unceasing anguish to learn the departure to eternal glory of Jeff Haskins(Jr). Having known Jeff Haskins(Sr) for a year and having introduced me to his son although i had not met him, i was looking forward to meet him this Dec when i visit my family back in Kenya. But it seems like God had His plans and that we were never to meet :(. My prayers and thoughts goes to the Haskin and the Burness Family. Poleni sana!

stephen mutisya
Tappahannock VA

Submitted by Guest on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 8:22pm.

A great grandson too

I knew Jeff as the oldest grandson and nephew of my good friends who live across the street, Mildred and Vickie. It does not surprise me to know he was working on so many good things and had so many good friends though as he was always someone I wanted to get to know better. Smith and I, and all of Ingleside Terrace, send our love and thoughts to Meredith and the rest of the family, especially Ms. Mildred. It is unbelievable that you have suffered so many losses this year. We are here for support so please lean on us. Allen

Submitted by Guest on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 5:37pm.

Rest in peace, Jeff

And to Meredith and family, we wish them fond memories of Jeff.

Naomi Kanyugo

Submitted by Guest on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 2:21pm.

Rest in peace, Jeff

And to Meredith and family, we wish them fond memories of Jeff.

Naomi Kanyugo

Submitted by Guest on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 2:20pm.

So long, Jeff

It has been a real pleasure to work with you. You really know your stuff, and I will miss our chats.
My thoughts are with your loved ones.

Natasha Gilbert

Submitted by Guest on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 11:39am.

Our prayers are with the Haskins Family

We've never met Jeff Jr. but as co-workers of Dr. Jeff Haskins Sr. we would like to offer our sincerest condolences. Our continued prayers will forever be with the entire family.

Gwen Carter, RN and Tiffany Smith, RN

Submitted by Guest on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 9:24am.

an eternal flame

A loss beyond words. Jeff held his own in articulating agriculture research in the media. I recall covering the FARA general assembly with him in Burkina Faso and blogging at the Cowpea meeting in Senegal in 2010 where he displayed unmatched creativity and a professional insight to issues. A remarkable, smart man, colleague, friend and mentor, not to mention a man with the largest funnybone! Will miss him. To Meredith and the entire Burness family, you are in our hearts. Let's us build on in his memory

Busani Bafana
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Submitted by Guest on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 9:01am.

Remembering Jeff Haskins

I met Jeff in Kenya and was very impressed that he totally blended with the local crowd, ate local meals, knew all the local music which is quite rare. Such a wonderful talented man with a heart of gold and a passion for communicating research better.

Will never forget his support for our avant-garde idea of Kenyan Science Cafes. He was one of the first people not to roll his eyes when he heard the idea and I am sure was instrumental in getting Burness to support the Kenyan Science Cafes when many others thought we were losing our marbles...

Meredith, there is a big Kenyan community that shares your pain but we are also here for you...any time. Sawa?

May God rest Jeff's Soul in Peace

Submitted by Guest on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 8:58am.

Jeff Haskins Award for Science Journalism in Africa

I support Fionna Douglas' idea to honour Jeff's memory with an award such as the Jeff Haskins Award for Science Journalism in Africa in recognition of excellence in the field but also twinned with a scholarship to pursue communications studies somewhere in the U.S. I believe there is a very special quality to the cross-over PR/communications/writing and reporting skills that Jeff always defended - bringing the best of both worlds together in a spirit of advocacy for the poorest and most vulnerable. And that this particular set of values should be at the core of any decision making criteria in such an award.
My sadness at this terrible loss is infinite.
Denise Young

Submitted by Guest on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 2:42am.

Remembering Jeff

I met Jeff may be 3 or 4 times for short periods while he was developing stories on aflatoxin control in Africa. He left a deep lasting impression with his energy, ideas, passion and helpful attitude. God loves special people. Jeff will be missed by all those who came across him even for a short time ..... like me.

Submitted by Guest on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 2:30am.

You will be missed

Jeff was such a good guy; a tender heart and gentle soul. We will miss you.

Submitted by Guest on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 12:41am.

Life is unjust

This is unbelievable, life is sometimes unjust. I am very sorry to hear the sad news. I have bee an admirer of Jeff since I joined Burness in 2008 as both a colleague and a friend. I will miss him gratefully. My thoughts and prayers are with Meredith his wife and all Burnessers.

Jean Pierre Bassi Bikai, CPA

Submitted by Guest on Mon, 07/16/2012 - 10:32pm.

light travels....

i have spent time on the phone today with a cousin of jeff's here in atlanta....i have felt her pain radiate through me...and though i never met jeff, i have been moved by this family's precious and fragile life is...meredith and your precious, unborn -child, i wish you angels of grace to carry you through....carrie amestoy

Submitted by Guest on Mon, 07/16/2012 - 8:38pm.

It was a privilege to work with You!

So smart and so nice! So entertaining and so knowlegeable about ag research! I worked much less with you than many others in CIAT but our coverage of GCARD 2010 and you appreciation of my efforts to introduce social media were so encouraging. I will deeply miss you.

Submitted by Guest on Mon, 07/16/2012 - 5:57pm.

So very sad

Jeff had the best taste in music of anyone I've ever known. He also had a really great sense of humor and his wry smirk and low chuckle could make the whole room lighter.

His passion for life, for his friends, for his work was boundless and infectious. It's hard to believe that such a vibrant force of life is gone.

Meredith, and baby, you are being lifted up in so many hearts and prayers. May you find peace, and a calm port to get you through this very rough time. Sending you much love from Rhode Island.

-Carol Lin

Submitted by Guest on Mon, 07/16/2012 - 3:31pm.


Jeff was an extraordinary professional, a wonderful sweet man, a unique talent. Can we think of a way to honour his memory ? A scholarship/award for young African story tellers ? something ?

fionna douglas

Submitted by Guest on Mon, 07/16/2012 - 3:20pm.

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