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Wageningen Univ. seeks PhD student for Burkina

Wageningen University is advertising for a PhD candidate for a new position in Burkina Faso, co-supervised by a team of CIRAD, INERA and WUR-PPS researchers. This position will be part of the second phase of the 3F project, financed by the McKnight Foundation, and focus on “Increasing agrobiodiversity in Sudano‐Sahelian cropping systems ‐ Effect on ecosystem services and farm sustainability.” Deadline to apply is 30 August 2022.

This “sandwich” PhD project is part of the 3F2 (Feeding the soil and feeding the cow to feed the people) project funded by the McKnight foundation and is co‐funded by the Initiative OneCG ‐ Transformational Agroecology Across Food, Land and Water Systems. The PhD study will be implemented in Burkina Faso as a collaboration between CIRAD (Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement), INERA (Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles), the farmer organization AMSP, and Wageningen University (WUR).

The PhD position will be hosted by the Plant Production Systems group at the WUR, with Prof. Dr. Katrien Descheemaeker as promotor, and Dr. Juliette Lairez (CIRAD ‐ Ouagadougou), Dr. Eveline Compaoré (INERA ‐ Ouagadougou), Dr. David Berre (CIRAD ‐ Montpellier), and Dr. Danaë Rozendaal (WUR) as co‐promotors.

Sudano‐Sahelian West Africa is characterized by semi‐arid climatic conditions and is now challenged by growing demographic pressure. The degradation of parklands and the reduction of fallow periods impact soil quality, while demand for feed to support an increased livestock population contributes to this degradation. Long‐term soil fertility improvement, with emphasis on soil organic matter content, along with a short‐term production increase, is needed. Enhancing biodiversity in cropping systems is a very promising approach toward agroecological intensification, promoting higher, and more stable, crop yields and provision of a large range of ecosystem services (pest control, nutrient cycling, water regulation, carbon storage). It allows the diversification of products and income opportunities and contributes to improved food security and farming systems resilience. The agrobiodiversity can be increased through crop rotation, agroforestry, cover crops, cultivar or crop mixtures and intercropping. Most of these innovations were tested at plot scale in the 3F project in on‐station and on‐farm trials, along with an exploration of collective dynamics on biomass use. The new phase of this project will focus on the impact of agrobiodiversity on farmers’ income and their resilience to shocks, and on ecosystem services. The overall objective is to boost biomass production and quality so as to mitigate the tradeoffs between feeding the soil, feeding the cows and feeding the people and to contribute to an agroecological intensification of agro‐sylvo‐pastoral systems in Burkina Faso.

The main objective of the PhD will be to better understand multidimensional effects of increased agrobiodiversity, with a focus on criteria relevant to farm households and on key ecosystem services. The PhD will assess under which conditions and for which farm types, different systems with increased agrobiodiversity could lead to win‐win effects for several sustainability criteria (e.g., food security, income, resource conservation, gender equity, etc.), or generate trade‐offs between sustainability criteria, especially between subsistence issues and long‐term impacts.

A set of criteria and ecosystem services relevant for farmers will be identified, and the perceptions of different types of farmers on ecosystem services will be analyzed (including differences in perceptions between male and female farmers). A multi‐criteria framework will be co‐designed with local actors and effects of agrobiodiversity on the criteria and ecosystem services at farm and landscape level will be assessed. Evidence‐based information will be produced on opportunities and constraints of increasing agrobiodiversity for a diversity of farmers. Innovative cropping systems that balance best the agro‐ecosystem services with farmers constraints and goals will be co‐created in a co‐learning process between farmers, scientists and advisors.

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, and affinity with quantitative work will be indispensable.

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 West African countries and women are highly encouraged to apply. 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.

A sandwich PhD study of four years, including an allowance (1300 €/month) for 18 months in Wageningen and a stipend (750 €/month) for 30 months in the country of field work. Health insurance will be covered 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 www.pe‐rc.nl for further information), including refresher courses, advanced PhD courses, presentation of posters and talks at conferences.

Information about the project can be found at the website: https://www.ccrp.org/grants/3f/

Information about the Plant Production Systems Group can be found at the website: http://www.wageningenur.nl/en/Expertise‐Services/Chair‐groups/Plant‐Sciences/Plant‐ Production‐Systems‐Group.htm

Apply until 30 August 2022 via email to