PhD Candidate in Farmer-led irrigation in (semi)-arid Africa

PhD Candidate in Farmer-led irrigation in (semi)-arid Africa

Published Deadline Location
13 Nov 11 Dec Delft

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IHE Delft Institute for Water Education seeks a PhD research candidate to conduct research in farmer-led irrigation in semi-arid Africa, as part of a recently awarded project entitled ‘A4Store’.

Job description

The PhD candidate will be hosted by the Land and Water Management Department of IHE Delft. The PhD candidate will be supervised by Prof. Charlotte de Fraiture (Professor of Land and Water Development) and Dr. Annelieke Duker (researcher in irrigation and development), Dr. Shirish Singh (researcher in non-sewered sanitation) and also registered at a Dutch University where the Professor is appointed for supervision. In this PhD research you will work with academic and non-academic partners in the project countries.

IHE Delft and 13 partners are implementing the A4Store project: Smallholder farming families Adapt African Alluvial Aquifers to Strengthen Their Own Resilience (A4Store), which started in 2023 and will end in 2027. A4Store envisions empowered marginal communities in rural drylands of Sub-Saharan Africa capable of using alluvial aquifers to enhance their well-being, strengthen their resilience, and sustainably manage and conserve riparian ecosystems. To this end, A4Store aims to assist rural poor farmers to access and use nature-based water stored in sand rivers in sustainable and equitable ways through a co-learning approach. A4Store focuses on dryland regions in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe complemented by experiences from Kenya, Niger and India.  IHE Delft wishes to recruit a full time PhD fellow to research farmer-led irrigation.

Objective of the PhD research is to evaluate processes of farmer-led irrigation making use of sand river aquifers in Africa’s arid lands. Farmer-led irrigation (FLI) is characterised as a diverse form of smallholder irrigation, where farmers invest, manage and develop their irrigated farms. Increasing acknowledgement of the contribution of farmer-led irrigation to food security and economic development by state and non-state actors results in emerging support mechanisms that aim to strengthen and expand these forms of irrigation for resource-poor farmers. Little empirical evidence exists how such support mechanisms impact farmers’ initiatives on the ground. For example, how do support mechanisms affect the autonomy of farmers in investing and decision-making, which is regarded as the distinctive strength of FLI. This PhD research aims to contribute to addressing this gap. Possible angles for this PhD research include financing modalities for pro-poor irrigation development, (long-term) livelihood impact, farmer’s learning processes and networks, and issues related to equity, for example gender-related aspects of farmer-led irrigation. Diverse qualitative and quantitative research approaches can be applied.

The expected starting date is early 2024.


  • Your research will contribute to research on support to farmer-led irrigation processes along sand rivers in at least one of the African project countries;
  • The PhD candidate will contribute to the preparation and reporting of a number of deliverables of the A4STORE project related to the PhD research of the candidate;
  • The PhD candidate will participate in project meetings;
  • The PhD candidate will publish the obtained results in peer reviewed journals which will contribute to your PhD thesis;
  • The PhD candidate will present the project results at national and international conferences and symposia. The PhD candidate will lead the development of tools or training and communication materials about meaningful support mechanisms for diverse actors engaged or willing to engage in FLI;
  • The PhD candidate will mentor MSc theses which are linked to the PhD research;
  • The PhD candidate will write and successfully defend a PhD thesis


IHE Delft Institute for Water Education


  • Originating from a developing country;
  • A Master’s or corresponding degree in the field of water/irrigation/agriculture/rural development/livelihoods;
  • Demonstrated knowledge on and experience with smallholder irrigation, preferably farmer-led irrigation in Africa;
  • Demonstrated ability to conduct scientific research and communicate results;
  • Experience in working with heterogeneous stakeholder groups (both within and outside academia);
  • Willingness to travel and conduct field work in the project sites;
  • Experience in working in the Global South, especially in Africa;
  • The candidate should be proficient in English (written and spoken) and have demonstrated skill in independently writing academic texts in English. Proficiency in the national or local languages of the focus countries is preferred;
  • Willingness to mentor master theses and a collaborative attitude, with preferably prior experience;
  • Values a multi-cultural work environment and is able to have an inclusive and non-hierarchical attitude in a team;
  • Female candidates are encouraged to apply.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

This is a position for 48 months (4 years), (38 hours per week), with the expectation that the candidate will submit and successfully defend the PhD thesis within this period. The candidate will be stationed in Delft, the Netherlands. Employment at IHE Delft is according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (scale P). The appointment implies entry into the Netherlands' Civil Service Pension Fund (ABP).

The initial contract is for 18 months. Within the first year a go/no-go decision will be made based on a detailed PhD research proposal to be developed by the candidate, which will determine whether or not the contract will be extended.

This role requires the candidate to be based in the Netherlands or willing to relocate to the country.

The expected start date of the position is early 2024.


  • Research, development, innovation; PhD
  • Behaviour and society; Natural sciences; Agriculture; Engineering
  • University graduate
  • AT IHE 23-LWM-02


IHE Delft Institute for Water Education

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