About the Call

By 2050 demand for food in Africa is projected to grow by 2.5 to 3 times the level of 2015. At the same time, Africa 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. For the past decades, growth in agricultural production has resulted from both agricultural land expansion and yield increases. As a result, agriculture has become the key driver of terrestrial ecosystem conversion/or natural habitat conversion; it’s not just forests but other key habitats including savanna and other grasslands. These will ultimately impact on human wellbeing by degrading the natural resource base on which people depend for a living. At the same time, agricultural development can disadvantage poorer, more vulnerable groups – for example, when large-scale agricultural investments threaten their land rights. Future agricultural development will need to address trade-offs between economic, environmental and social outcomes to make progress on Sustainable Development Goals 2 (zero hunger), 10 (reduced inequality) and 15 (protection of terrestrial ecosystems).

The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) is part of a consortium of institutions implementing the four (4) year Social and Environmental Trade-offs in African Agriculture (Sentinel) Project funded by the UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The Project aims at building the capacity of African and UK research organizations to design and deliver high quality, relevant and state-of-the-art research related to this major challenge of trade-offs between economic, environmental and social outcomes. Sentinel explores, 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 focuses on three research clusters listed below:

  1. Understanding agricultural expansion: Historical trends and current status of agricultural expansion (into natural habitats such as forests, shrubland, wetlands, etc.), its major socio-economic, political and biophysical (e.g., climate change) drivers, and the likely future extent, nature and location of agricultural expansion under alternative assumptions and scenarios;
  2. Understanding the socio-economic and environmental impacts of expansion: In particular impacts on the livelihoods, wellbeing and resource access for poor and vulnerable people – both those expanding their agriculture, and those affected by habitat loss in these areas; and impacts on ecosystem functions and services of the wider landscape;
  3. Understanding trade-offs: within and between socio-economic and environmental outcomes under alternative scenarios for agricultural development, and the policies and political economy influencing these.

Research Scholarships Available

As part of the process of enhancing knowledge on the trade-offs between Sustainable Development Goal 2, 10 and 15, Sentinel 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 provided through a series of Calls for Proposals.

The First Call for Proposals awarded seven (7) research scholarships. This Second Call will provide a further up to twenty (20) research scholarships for students registered under the RUFORUM Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) Program. Students who are not under the GTA Program will also be considered but must undertake their studies at RUFORUM member universities (a full list of RUFORUM 105 Member Universities can be found here. Of the twenty, a minimum of five research scholarships each will be allocated for research taking place in Ghana (5), Ethiopia (5) and Zambia (5) in the Sentinel research sites (to be identified by April 2019). Please note that students outside the focal countries are eligible and encouraged to apply as long they conduct their research in the three Sentinel countries and research sites (Ghana, Ethiopia and Zambia). The other remaining five scholarships will be flexible in terms of location of the research but must be aligned to the overall Sentinel themes. The Scholarships will support costs related to doctoral research activities over two years.

Please download the complete Second round RUFORUM Call of Sentinel PhD Scholarships. The Deadline is 15 February 2019.

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