PhD position - Farming system transformations through contract farming in Madagascar

PhD position - Farming system transformations through contract farming in Madagascar

Published Deadline Location
23 Apr 20 May Wageningen

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Job description

Are you a talented aspiring researcher with an interest in biophysical and social aspects of regenerative agriculture? Are you curious whether contract farming can improve livelihoods and (re-)investments in sustainable agriculture? Do you enjoy doing integrative transdisciplinary research to understand and improve land and water management decisions? Then this may be the right opportunity for you!

Join the TSARA project, a collaborative effort between Soil Physics and Land Management group (SLM) and Water Resources Management group (WRM) aimed at transforming agricultural systems in the Isandra District of Madagascar's Haute Matsiatra region. TSARA, which stands for "Transformation des systèmes agricoles avec du riz et de l'artemisia", is a public-private partnership project. It aims to develop integrated farmer-centred business propositions for outgrowers of rice and artemisia annua in rotation with food crops that will create work and better income opportunities for smallholder farmers (in particular women and youth) in the Isandra District of Haute Matsiatra region, Madagascar. Within this project, executed in collaboration with two enterprises, respectively supporting artemisia and rice value chain development, and the regional government, Wageningen University acts as knowledge partner and will provide technical assistance as well as focusing on impact assessment of project interventions.
In this PhD position you will perform a central role in the project by engaging in participatory action research underpinning a co-learning approach through which insights from research are continuously fed back into project activities and processes.

You will focus on and cross-link several lines of inquiry, including:
1) understanding current land and water management practices performed by smallholder farmers, and whether improved practices promoted by the project lead to better productivity and soil health;
2) assessing who engages in the contracted production of artemisia and rice, and to what extent this engagement leads to sustainable reinvestment in regenerative farming practices;
3) take a broader landscape view on the agroecological restoration, assessing whether catchment restoration actions can support farming system transformation.

Additionally, you will be conducting field experiments to assess soil health, water balance impacts and agricultural productivity, and use ethnographic and interactive research methods to document perceived outcomes of engaging in contract farming and adoption of regenerative agricultural practices. You will pay attention to different scales: plant-plot-landscape-region, and temporally from seasonal cropping decisions to scenario development on longer temporal scales.

As PhD candidate you will contribute to impact assessment of the project interventions and approaches and providing recommendations for improvement and upscaling.

You will work here
Within Wageningen you will be part of the TSARA project team which is divided over two chair groups: Soil Physics and Land Management and Water Resources Management. You will be co-supervised by Dr Luuk Fleskens, Dr Gert Jan Veldwisch and Dr Saskia van der Kooij.


Wageningen University & Research


Your duties and responsibilities include:
  • Designing and implementing the participatory action research;
  • Impact assessment of project activities;
  • Develop the findings into a dissertation on farming system transformations through contract farming.

You have:
  • an MSc degree in agronomy, land and water management, agroecology, rural development or related field;
  • experience in conducting quantitative and qualitative field research in agricultural areas in resource-poor settings;
  • the ability to work in a multidisciplinary team and engage with agri-business developers and smallholder farmers;
  • willingness to live/spend significant time in the Southern Highlands of Madagascar (Fianarantsoa);
  • proficiency in French or Malagasy is desirable.

For this position your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level. Sometimes it is necessary to submit an internationally recognised Certificate of Proficiency in the English Language. More information can be found here.

Conditions of employment

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:
  • partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.

The gross salary for the first year is € 2.770 - per month rising to € 3.539,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 19th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees.

Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about for example helping your partner to find a job, housing, or schooling.

Finally, certain categories of international staff may be eligible for a tax exemption on a part of their salary during the first five years in the Netherlands.


Wageningen University & Research

Wageningen University & Research
The mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With its roughly 30 branches, 7,600 employees (6,700 fte) and 13,100 students and over 150,000 participants to WUR’s Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

Read the 5 reasons why your future colleagues enjoy working at WUR and watch the video below to get an idea of our green campus!

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.


  • PhD
  • Agriculture
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €3226—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • P1499967-1


Wageningen University & Research

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Droevendaalsesteeg, 6708 PB, Wageningen

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