PhD Positions in Upscaling Small-scale Land and Water System Innovations, UNESCO-IHE [The Netherlands]

PhD position available at UNESCO-IHE (SSI-2 Project), Upscaling small-scale land and water system innovations in dryland agro-ecosystems for sustainability and livelihood improvements (SSI-2)
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Recently, an interdisciplinary research project was approved by the UNESCO-IHE Partnership Research Fund (UPaRF).


This project will form part of the broader successor programme of SSI, in which the following institutes collaborate: UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education (Delft, The Netherlands), University of Dar Es Salaam, University of KwaZulu Natal, Delft University of Technology, the International Water Management Institute, Sokoine University of Agriculture and the Stockholm Resilience Centre.
Within the current project a PhD positions is available, linked to the themes described below. If successful, the PhD degree will be awarded by Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands.

Project description
The project focuses on the semi-arid areas of sub-Saharan Africa, where 95% of the total agricultural land is used for rainfed agriculture, water availability is scarce and highly variable, and average yields often remain below 1 ton per ha. The resilience of the farming systems is low as well, due the large (and increasing) variability of the hydro-climatic conditions and a limited capacity to adapt. As a result, crop failure is the norm. Water availability is a key entry point to improve crop productivity in these regions (Falkenmark and Rockström, 2004).

The research and outreach programme of "Smallholder systems innovations in integrated watershed management" (SSI-1, 2004-2008) thus focused on the identification and application of innovative agricultural water management practices that offer opportunities to increase both food security and safeguard environmental integrity. The impact of these innovations on food production and ecosystems has been studied at field and watershed scale at sites in the Thukela river basin in South Africa and the Pangani river basin in Tanzania.

There is a growing awareness that a real transformation of the countryside will only be possible if innovative soil and water technologies and land and water management practices are adopted, and locally adapted, at a large scale and in combination with increased fertilizer use (see e.g. Rijsberman, 2004; Polak, 2005; Rockström et al., 2007). Only then will rural areas be able to transform from their current position of marginalization and poverty to a motor of socio-economic development (Prahalad, 2004).

Since the conditions under which such a transformation may occur, as well as the potential impacts at different scales, are still ill-understood, a new project will focus on the socio-economic and bio-physical conditions and impacts of upscaling these innovations. This new project (SSI-2, 2008-2012) will take note of some new drivers that influence the opportunities for agricultural innovation and rural socio-economic transformation: increasing food prices, increased access to information in the rural countryside, climate change impacts, and the limited access of farmers to energy sources in the face of an increasing global demand for biofuels (e.g., de Wit and Stankiewics, 2006; Uhlenbrook, 2007). The two PhD research projects form part of the broader SSI-2 programme.

PhD Project 1: Water processes at different spatial scales
This research theme addresses the hydrological implications for up-scaling land and water system innovations. The objective is to gain better understanding of the interactions between processes linking local and larger scales.

The analysis focuses on how the dominant hydrological processes may change at different spatial scales. The research builds on the understanding of the hydrological processes gained during SSI-1, with a stronger emphasis on groundwater-surface water interactions and potential implications of/for land management changes.

It is hypothesised that surface-groundwater interactions are critical to the impacts of water system innovations, and that it impacts vary with scale and different physiographic characteristics.

This hypothesis will be verified in the field and the results used for predictive modelling to determine impacts of up-scaled use of WSIs on water quantity and quality for downstream users under different scenarios. The surface-groundwater interactions (including wetlands) are also crucial for the hydrological variability and water resources availability at different scales and, consequently, for the provision of ecosystem services.

Research question: What are the hydrological impacts of small scale farming activities, incl. water system innovations, across different scales? Particular attention will be paid to different types of rainwater harvesting, supplementary irrigation and full scale irrigation.

Methodology: Understanding the hydrological impacts of small scale farming activities across different scales, requires the understanding of the hydrological processes at these scales. This research will take up the small scale hydrological understanding (project 3.1) and investigate the large scale (500-5,000-45,000 km2) hydrological processes through the use of remote sensing data combined with field observations (incl. hydro-chemical and tracers studies). Of particular interest is the groundwater surface water interaction (incl. generation of wetlands) and the impact of this on the downstream water availability (PBWO, 2006). A process-based distributed hydrological model will be developed to investigate different scenarios of uptake and extent of the small scale farming activities.

This study will be supervised by Prof. Dr. Stefan Uhlenbrook, Dr. Jan Willem Foppen, Dr Shreedhar Maskey (UNESCO-IHE), Dr. T.A. Kimaro (UDSM).

The following applies to the position:
* All topics will be carried out in a so-called sandwich construction with different phases at UNESCO-IHE in the Netherlands and field research in Tanzania (with regular contacts with Tanzanian and Dutch supervisors).
* PhD positions are funded with a fellowship for which NUFFIC regulations apply.
* Starting date: April 1, 2009 for 4 years.
* Qualifications: M.Sc. degree (average mark: 80% or above) in a discipline relevant to the topic, e.g. environmental engineering, socio-economics of the water sector, hydrology and water resources.
* The applicants must demonstrate a strong interest and experience in conducting interdisciplinary research.
* The applicant should be willing to co-operated with other researchers in the SSI-2 programme
* The applicants should be willing to co-supervise MSc research projects.
* The applicants must be fluent in English.
* Preferred country of citizenship of the applicants is Tanzania.
* Age: 40 years and below.
* Work experience in relevant fields of studies is desirable.

The project it is jointly led by Dr. T.A. Kimaro (kimaro[ at ]wrep.udsm.ac.tz) and Ms. M.L. Mul (m.mul[ at ]unesco-ihe.org) of UNESCO-IHE.

Applications, including curriculum vitae, the names and contact details of three contactable referees, and a motivation letter, should be sent by email to both Dr. T.A. Kimaro and Ms. M.L. Mul before 31 January 2009. Please mention the subject heading "PhD application SSI-2 project 1".

We intend to contact short-listed candidates on or before 15 February 2009.

Closing date: 31 January 2009