PhD position at WUR in Co-designing Agro-ecological intensification in Burkina Faso

This “sandwich” PhD project is part of the 3F project funded by the McKnight Foundation (Feeding the soil and feeding the cow to feed the people: co-designing agro-sylvo-pastoral systems in sudano-sahelian zone of Burkina Faso). It is implemented as a collaboration between CIRAD (Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement), INERA (Institut National de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles) , AMSP (Association Minim Sông Pânga), and Wageningen University (WUR).

The PhD position will be hosted by the Plant Production Systems group of WUR, with Prof. Ken Giller as promotor, and Dr. Katrien Descheemaeker and Dr. Myriam Adam (CIRAD) as co-promotors.

Project description

Increasing and optimizing the ecosystem services provided by biodiversity is one way to achieve agro-ecological intensification of agro-sylvo-pastoral systems and to reduce the impact of pests and diseases thereby improving crop yields. Co-designing innovative agro-ecological technologies can help to identify locally suited solutions for optimizing complementarity and facilitation effects between plant (crop and trees) and livestock components to feed the people.

3F will focus on sorghum-based systems, as sorghum plays a prominent role for diverse farmers: income for women through processing, food for the family, feed for livestock. The project aims to address the multidimensional context of farming by evaluating with farmers the biophysical and socio-economic aspects of the system. It envisions using two major biotic constraints in the zone -striga and midge- as entry points to study the influence of biodiversity as a pest control strategy. Trade-offs associated with the use of biomass and diversity of plants (crops and trees/shrub) in the system will be considered for soil fertility improvement and for livestock feed.

The overall objective of the project is to sustainably improve the livelihood of smallholders by optimizing the agrosylvo-pastoral systems in multiple dimensions. It aims to exploit the agrobiodiversity and evaluate its effects on feeding the soil, the livestock and above all the people at different levels going from plant over plot to farm and landscape level. The PhD student will focus on the farm to landscape level by studying the trade-offs and synergies between the system components to maximize resource use efficiency, biomass fluxes and household income, differentiated by farm types and gender groups. The relationship between parkland characteristics in terms of tree density and botanic composition with pest control, soil fertility, crop productivity and household welfare will also be investigated.

Farmers will be major stakeholders and beneficiaries of the project. Based on farmers’ knowledge and perceptions of their farming systems, a wide range of diversification options will be co-constructed and tailored to farmers’ technical and social context. All the tested cropping and livestock options will be evaluated based on criteria in multiple domains by farmers and researchers during farmer field days and farmer feedback sessions. Modelling will be implemented to provide ex-ante assessment of alternative options.

We ask

For this interdisciplinary project we look for an enthusiastic person with an appropriate MSc degree in agronomy, agroforestry, livestock science or agricultural economics with strong analytical skills and interest in participatory research with farmers and other stakeholders. Experience with experimental work and/or modelling is an advantage. The candidate should be able to combine broad system aspects with more detailed aspects of agricultural production systems. Good communication skills and proficiency in English and French (both oral and written) are a prerequisite. Candidates from African countries (preferably Central or West-Africa) are eligible for this position.

PhD candidates from non-Anglophone countries are required to submit an internationally recognised Certificate of Proficiency in the English Language (e.g., TOEFL, IELTS) with their CV. Note that this is an absolute requirement as candidates can not be admitted to the PhD program otherwise. This certificate is not a requirement for PhD candidates who have completed their higher education with English as the language of instruction. Requirements are one of the following:

- TOEFL internet-based 90, with minimum sub-score 20 for speaking,

- IELTS 6.5, with minimum sub-score 6.0 for speaking,

- Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) minimum grade B,

- Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) any grade.

We offer

A sandwich PhD study of four years, including an allowance (1190 €/month) for 18 months in Wageningen with health insurance cover for the whole four year period. Bench and University fees will also be covered. As part of the sandwich PhD, you have to broaden your knowledge as specified in a Training and Supervision Plan (see for further information), including refresher courses, advanced PhD courses, presentation of posters and talks at conferences.

We are

The Plant Production Systems (PPS) group uses systems analysis to understand the soil-crop interactions with the aim to achieve sustainable food production. Using concepts of systems analysis, we develop methods that allow integrated analysis and design of alternative futures at local (farm), regional, national, international and global scales. We thus contribute to a mission that strives to provide grounded quantitative analysis to underpin responses to urgent societal issues such as global food security, agricultural and environmental policies, competition for natural resources, food-feed-fuel interactions and global environmental change.

Further information

More information about the vacancy can be obtained from:

Dr Katrien Descheemaeker, email: katrien [dot] descheemaeker [at] wur [dot] nl

Dr Myriam Adam, email: myriam [dot] adam [at] cirad [dot] fr

Information about the hosting chair group Plant Production Systems can be found at the website:

You can apply until the 30th of September 2018. Please submit your application (including your curriculum vitae, your English proficiency certificate, and a one page motivation letter) via email: 3f [dot] burkinafaso [at] wur [dot] nl.

Acquisition regarding this vacancy is not appreciated