The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) is a key partner on a new four (4) year project on Social and Environmental Trade-offs in African Agriculture (SENTINEL) funded by GCRF RCUK.
The project aims at building the capacity of African and UK research organizations to design and deliver high quality, relevant and state of art research related to a major challenge that lies at the heart of sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). By 2050, the demand for food in Africa is projected to grow by 2.5 to 3 times the level of 2015. At the same time, African continues to import a lot of its staple food, with the African Development Bank estimating that over US$35 billion is spent on food imports. This figure is expected to rise to US$125 billion by 2050.
Current growth in agricultural production has arisen from as much if not more from increases in land under agriculture, rather than from yield increases. As a result, agriculture has become the main driver of deforestation in Africa, resulting in loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. These will ultimately impact on human well being by degrading the natural resource base on which people depend for a living. Future agricultural development will need to address trade-offs between economic, environmental and social outcomes in order to make progress against sustainable development goals 2 (zero hunger), 10 (reduced inequality) and 15 (protection of terrestrial ecosystem). Hence, SENTINEL will explore, in collaboration with decision makers in government, civil society and the private sector, the impacts, risks and trade-offs within and between social, economic and environmental dimensions of different agricultural development pathways in three African countries: Zambia, Ethiopia and Ghana.
The project will focus on 3 research themes listed below:
- Understanding the past and present: Historical trends and current status of agricultural development and its social and environmental impacts, and the major technical, institutional, political and economic determinants;
- Scenarios of future agriculture and land use change: Driving forces that will shape the future of agricultural development – identifying key impacts, risks and trade-offs within and between socioeconomic and environmental dimensions and plausible alternative scenarios that warrant further investigation;
- Understanding impacts, risks and assumptions and trade-offs: within and between socio-economic and environmental dimensions of alternative scenarios for agricultural development, and the implications for biodiversity loss and ecosystem processes, and for the productivity and resilience of agriculture.
15 Graduate Research Grants
As part of the process of enhancing knowledge on the trade-offs between Sustainable Development Goal 2, 10 and 15, The Project is making available through RUFORUM a total of 27 Research scholarships for PhD students to undertake research in areas of relevance to the Project. The Scholarships will be delivered through a series of Calls for Proposals. This first Call for Proposals will make available eight research grants for students registered under the RUFORUM Graduate Teaching Assistantship Programme (GTA) from the RUFORUM 85 Member Universities in 35 African Countries, to support their doctoral research over two years.
The research supported through these scholarships should be aligned to the project challenge as well as contribute to the SENTINEL thematic areas. During this first round, we would like to invite applicants to propose research on one of the following topics:
- Environmental impact of different agricultural development pathways: What is the evidence regarding the environmental impact of smallholder / family farms in Africa vs commercially oriented larger farms in Africa? This could be either done via a systematic review of existing studies, or via a comparative, field based analysis between smallholder farms and commercial farms in a specific ‘hot spot’ (where there appears to be a tension between increasing agricultural production and conserving terrestrial ecosystems such as forests, wetlands etc.).
- Social impacts of different agricultural development pathways: As 1., but focusing on social impacts (such as impacts on equality, farmer empowerment, control over natural resources and other means of production etc.).
- A review and critical analysis of the extent to which, and effectiveness with which the current agricultural research agenda (in a specific country) incorporates environmental and social impacts of different agricultural approaches and technologies. This would be done initially at the national level (policy and practice review), but then zoom in on specific environmental and social impacts that are a priority in a given country.
- A review and critical analysis of the extent to which, and effectiveness with which the current agricultural extension / advisory services agenda (in a specific country) incorporates environmental and social impacts of different agricultural approaches and technologies. This would be done initially at the national level (policy and practice review), but then zoom in on specific environmental and social impacts that are a priority in a given country.
- A review and critical analysis of the extent to which, and effectiveness with which the current national farmer organisation’s agenda (in a specific country) incorporates environmental and social impacts of different agricultural approaches and technologies. This would be done initially at the national level (policy and practice review), but then zoom in on specific environmental and social impacts that are a priority in a given country.
- An analysis of the conditions favoring success (enabling condition, critical success factors) in efforts in the agriculture and/or the forestry sector to better manage the trade-offs between agricultural production and conservation of the remaining natural forests and woodlands. This will be based on 1 or more success stories that will be identified by October 2017. This will require a holistic analysis exploring issues of governance and political economy alongside technology development and extension.
- An analysis of the effectiveness of current land use planning mechanisms / approaches in taking into account social and environmental impacts of agricultural development pathways.
- A historic analysis of the drivers for agricultural intensification and expansion a specific country, and how these are likely to change in the future.
For more information on Sentinel please visit the Project Website at https://www.iied.org/social-environmental-trade-offs-african-agriculture.
The Scholarship Awards
Each scholarship is a maximum of $7,500 over a period of two years, and are meant to provide funds for student to carry out credible research in line with the Sentinel Project
Scholarship Application Documents
Graduate Teaching Assistants and potential PhD students should submit their research proposals that clearly articulates the justification, objectives, hypotheses, activities and methodology, detailed budget and the final outputs. The proposal must have a plan for disseminating findings from the research. The entire proposal should be a maximum of 10 pages (A4) with 1.5 line spacing.
Scholarship Proposal Review Process
RUFORUM relies on the professional expertise, experience and judgment of external reviewers. All proposals will be reviewed by at least two external reviewers. Reviewers will be objectively critical while at the same time offering suggestions for improving the proposals, even for those being recommended for major revision or rejection. The emphasis for the reviewers is on the academic and scientific rigor of the proposal.
The external reviewers will mainly use the following criteria to judge/rank proposals.
- Overall project design, content and articulation/write-up
- Appropriateness/relevance and contribution to SENTINEL project challenge and relevance to the Project research (themes proposed above)
- The originality, innovativeness and contribution to science or development
- Research activities clearly defined
- Clear identification of pertinent research issues, achievable objectives
- Evidence of a good understanding of the literature, rationale for the particular
- Well-articulated methodological approach with evidence of good understanding of applicable methods
- Clearly articulated engagement process with key stakeholders throughout the research process, and pathway for dissemination of results to communities, academia and, where appropriate, to service agencies, partners and policy-makers
- Feasibility: Can the PhD student achieve this in the time available and is it of the expected standard for a PhD?
Scholarship Award process
Successful applicants will receive Grant Award letters which specifies the amount of the grant, purpose and responsibility of the grant recipient and the university in monitoring the use of the grant funds and reporting requirements. Scholarships awarded are published in the RUFORUM News and are posted in the RUFORUM website (www.ruforum.org).
Mentoring and Skills Enhancing for the Awardees
This is an important component of the SENTINEL project scholarships and all successful awardees will be facilitated to attend skills enhancement training courses (short courses, retreats workshops and scientific conferences). Further to this, each awardee will be matched with a mentor in their field of specialization to develop competencies required to carry out effective research, good relations with partner communities and agencies and the publication and dissemination of results. The SENTINEL Project will link awardees with Project mentors in the United Kingdom and target partners countries.
Grant beneficiaries are required to submit half-yearly progress reports on time, through their supervisors, to allow close monitoring by RUFORUM Secretariat.
The foreseen time frame for the award process is as follows.
- The deadline for receiving applications at RUFORUM Secretariat is 30th January 2018 5.00 pm Uganda time.
- Administrative check/compliance review and feedback to applicants by 10th February 2018
- Accepted proposals sent out for review by Technical Committee by 15th February 2018
- Review of Proposals by Technical Committee and selection completed by 20th February 2018.
- Successful applicants informed electronically by 30th March 2018
- RUFORUM Secretariat sends out Scholarship Award letters by 15th April 2018
scholarships funds disbursed by 30th April 2018
How to apply for a scholarship via RUFORUM Information Management System (RIMS)
- Open this website link: http://rims.ruforum.org/
- If you don’t have an account you will be asked to register here: http://rims.ruforum.org/contacts/register/
- After registering successfully, you will be taken to your dashboard. What you see on your dashboard depends on the permissions that you have been assigned by the RIMS Administrator.
- If you happen to have captured your email in RIMS, the system might tell you that your account already exists. If this is the case then follow the steps related to resetting your password/forgotten your password
What to do if you have forgotten your password or need to reset your password
- Open this website link: http://rims.ruforum.org/
- Instead of logging in, Click “Forgot Password”
- You will be asked to enter your email address and then click reset password
- The link to enable you reset your password will be sent to your email address. Please also check for this link in your spam folder in case it is delivered to your spam. Follow the instructions to reset your password
- Use your email and the new password to log into RIMS
- After successfully logging on you will be taken to your dashboard. What you see on your dashboard depends on the permissions that you have been assigned by the RIMS Administrator
How to log on if you have an existing account
- Open this website link: http://rims.ruforum.org/
- Click to log into RIMS by entering your email as the username and your password
After successfully logging on you will be taken to your dashboard. What you see on your dashboard depends on the permissions that you have been assigned by the RIMS Administrator.
How to submit a scholarship application via RIMS
- After successfully logging on click ‘Apply for a Scholarship’
- Choose correct call ID which is RU/2017/GTA/DRG/02
- Complete the online application form
Help Line: For help during online submission and more information please contact Ms Molly Akello – RUFORUM Training Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org ), or David Ekepu – Project Technical Assistant (email@example.com).