In memoriam Jan Hoorweg (1939-2022)

The African Studies Centre Leiden is sad to report that Jan Hoorweg passed away in his home in Leiderdorp on 3 August 2022. Jan started to work as a social psychologist at the African Studies Centre in 1967. He continued to work at the ASC up to 2014, ten years after his official retirement. During the period 1969-1972 he had a fellowship at Makerere University to do research on the effects of malnutrition in Uganda. This culminated in his PhD thesis entitled Protein-energy malnutrition and intellectual abilities. A study of teen-age Ugandan children, which he defended in Leiden on 16 May 1976.

Partly due to the political unrest in Uganda during the 1970s, Jan shifted his research to neighbouring Kenya and over the years this country really became his second home. Under his guidance, several large research programmes were initiated there, for which he managed to obtain ample funding from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Of these projects, the Food and Nutrition Studies Programme - FNSP Phase 1 and Phase 2 - was by far the largest one. Both phases consisted of different studies, all related to the topics of food and nutrition. For Jan, cooperation with Kenyan researchers and Kenyan government officials has always been very important. During Phase 2, all research projects were carried out by Kenyan researchers, advised and supervised by ASC researchers.

A large and pioneering study in FNSP Phase 1 concerned the impact of seasonality on food supply and nutritional condition in six rural communities in the Coastal Lowlands of Kenya. This was also the start of Jan’s  deep interest for this region. Besides a whole range of publications and a conference in Mombasa, a major offspring of this research project was Jan’s ‘opus magnum’: Kenya Coast Handbook. Culture, resources and development in the East African littoral, as well as his work on the Kenya Coast Bibliography, which he continued to do until long after his retirement. While stationed at the coastal town of Malindi, his professorship on Human Ecology at Moi University was also part of this period. Besides, in the Netherlands Jan also held a professorship, namely on Food security and nutritional interventions at Wageningen University.

Jan’s interest was diverse and shifted over time from the areas of nutrition, food supply, project evaluation, and rural development to coastal ecology and issues of coastal development. This resulted in a list of publications totalling more than 80 books and articles, as can be seen here. Many of his publications are available in open access, as he also had a keen interest in new technology, which can be seen on the Kenya Coast Portal, which was based on the Kenya Coast Handbook.

Unfortunately for Jan, not all his wishes in his beloved Kenya could be realised: he sometimes dreamt of being the second Dutch project manager with his own plane and he would very much have liked to once take part in the East African Safari Rally. Despite these ‘small shortcomings’, we remember Jan as an excellent researcher and research manager, as a major fund raiser and as a very pleasant and inspiring colleague. Our thoughts are with his family, relatives and friends.                                                                                  

Jos Damen & Dick Foeken