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Call for PhD Candidate: Biomass for biofuels production options on family farms Nampula province, Mozambique
Competing Claims research programmes

Closing date: 15 September 2008
15 September 2008
Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)


The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has through its organisation Science for Global Development (WOTRO) granted funding for an integrated programme ‘Biomass for fuel: opportunity or threat to food and feed security? Case studies for farms in Brazil and Mozambique’. The programme seeks to assess the possibilities and limitations of biomass for bio-fuel production on family farms in two regions in Mozambique and Brazil by exploring pros and cons of alternative farming options. It aims at developing generic methods, such that they can be applied to the regions in Mozambique and Brazil, but are also re-usable for other regions where similar issues are at stake.

The main research partners in the programme are different groups of Wageningen University, the Netherlands, University of Sao Paolo and Federal University of Viçosa, both in Brazil, and Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique National Institute of Agricultural Research (IIAM) and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), all three based in Mozambique. The programme includes two post-docs, one in the Netherlands and one in Brazil, and two PhD students, one in Mozambique and one in Brazil. The research will be carried out in close collaboration between the countries. The programme is managed and coordinated by the chair group Plant Production Systems (PPS) at Wageningen University.

Job description: Nampula Province is one of the major food producing regions in Mozambique. Private companies and the government are developing initiatives to establish bio-fuel factories and to stimulate the required biomass production in this region. It is unclear, however, how family farms, with an average farm size of only 1.4 ha, can profit from this development, because they use few inputs - resulting in low yields – and because infrastructure is poor. Only 20% of the farmers are organized in farmers associations. An integrated assessment is needed to answer the question if biomass for bio-energy provides an escape from the so-called poverty trap by providing opportunities to improve livelihoods.

The PhD will develop and apply an operational farm model that allows quantification of the effects of introducing bio-energy crops on farms and their agro-ecological and socio-economic performance. He or she will identify the major factors determining the risks and opportunities for producing bio-energy crops related to different farm configurations and organisation forms in Nampula Province and regions with similar agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions. Farm level results will be scaled up to regional level to assess implications for food availability and affordability, as well as positive or negative externalities.

This project refers to the Mozambican PhD-position of the WOTRO-programme. The research will be carried out in close collaboration with the other team members and in particular with the Universities of Eduardo Mondlane and Wageningen (Plant Production Systems and Animal Production Systems)

Qualifications: The candidate has completed an MSc in a relevant field (e.g. Plant Sciences, Agronomy, Animal Sciences, Biology, Resource Ecology). He/she has proven capabilities in systems analysis, simulation modeling and other quantitative methods, has experience with literature research, computer programming languages and data searching, is fluent in English and Portuguese and has good writing skills. The candidate should be able to communicate well with colleague researchers in similar and other relevant disciplines.

What we offer: A sandwich PhD position, which is a grant to complete a PhD thesis, while being employed at his/her home institute. He/she will spend the first and last 6-8 months of a 4 year period at Wageningen University, preparing his/her research proposal and finalizing the thesis. He/she will graduate at Wageningen University. In between he/she will perform research in Mozambique. Expenses as agreed upon in the contract are covered by the grant.

Information: For more information on the vacancy you can contact Prof. A. Sitoe, , tel. +258-823195410, Dr G.W.J. van de Ven, , tel +31(0)317-482696. Information on Sandwich PhD-requirements is available on the website of the research school PE&RC: www.dpw.wageningen-ur.nl/PEenRC/. Information on the type of research is available at: www.competingclaims.nl

Application: Please send a letter, noting the vacancy title, describing why you are suited for this position together with a CV and provide the names of two referees, before 15 September 2008 to the coordinating group: Dr Gerrie van de Ven, Plant Production Systems, P.O. Box 430, 6700 AK Wageningen, The Netherlands. E-mail: .

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