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Community empowerment through DIGItisation in East Africa


   School of Biological Sciences

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  Dr M Bozzola, Dr A Nugent  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Community empowerment through DIGItisation in East Africa: a collaborative project between Queen’s University Belfast and Self Help Africa.

The second goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for the global community to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Rural communities in East Africa (EA) face unique and pressing challenges, such as the need to feed growing local populations while facing harsher resource constraints (degraded land, erratic and scarce rainfall), existing gender inequalities and old and new climate-driven risks. Yet, EA has lagged in adopting ICT technologies that could increase productivity, food security and inclusiveness. Despite a gradual reduction of the physical barriers for ICT adoption (e.g. better network and internet coverage in remote areas), a DfE-funded pilot project conducted by QUB in partnership with SHA and TruTrade suggests that the opportunities brought by ICT to support the achievement of SDG1 (no poverty), SDG2 (zero hunger) and SDG5 (gender equality) are not yet fully realised. Farmers' access and best uses of ICT technology is restricted by factors such as culture, gender norms, poverty, and lack of knowledge of the available information and services.

The research project will collect and analyse socio-economic characteristics and behavioural aspects of farmers’ populations, and data on ICT use from participants in Uganda, with a focus on woman farmers and youths. The interdisciplinary research will focus on three themes: 

·       increase market opportunities for farmers to create fairer and diversified market linkages   

·       create equitable access to knowledge of food and nutritional practices, including accurate and supportive information relating to the first 1000 days of life (pregnancy, breastfeeding and infant nutrition)

·       create equitable access to knowledge of good agricultural practices (GAP)

We need further research on these three complementary themes to support both rural communities and the development aid agencies working in remote areas in EA. The end-goal is to support the adoption of production and consumption practices that support efficiency and wellbeing without damaging environments that are often particularly sensitive. Good solutions will be compatible with and draw upon traditional knowledge and practices.

The outcome of this project will strengthen the livelihood of rural communities, enhancing the making and diffusion of research-driven capacity building interventions and supporting informed decision-making processes.

The project brings together co-supervisors with proven track records in development and agricultural economics, and in food and nutrition security, working with the NGO Self Help Africa as collaborative partner. This will prepare the successful student for research using mixed methods and applied work in development.

The project will be supervised by Dr Martina Bozzola and Dr Anne Nugent (Queen's University School of Biological Sciences/Institute for Global Food Security).

Training: The student will benefit from a high level of HEI-NGO integrated working, preparing them for research using mixed methods and applied work in development. The proximity of offices in Belfast and Dublin will enable strong engagement and participation of the workings of SHA, through placements to gain experience in policy, nutrition and agriculture sections.

At QUB, the student would act as a bridge between SHA and interested academics in diverse areas, including economics, farming systems and nutrition.

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Duration: 3 years

Academic Eligibility: Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject (e.g. economics, development studies, human nutrition). Applicants with a 2.2 Honours degree may be considered provided they have or expect to achieve a Commendation or Distinction-level MSc in a relevant subject.

How to apply: Applications must be submitted via: https://dap.qub.ac.uk/portal/user/u_login.php


Funding Notes

This studentship is funded by the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy (DfE) in association with Self-Help Africa.
The value of an award includes the cost of approved tuition fees and maintenance support (£15,609 for 2021/22; rate for 2022/23 to be confirmed).
Candidates must be normally resident in the UK for the three year period prior to 1 October 2022. For non-EU nationals, the main purpose of residence must not have been to receive full-time education. Non-UK or Irish nationals must also have pre-settled or settled status (EU nationals) or settled status (non-EU nationals).
Full eligibility criteria: https://www.economy-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/economy/Postgraduate-studentships-terms-and-conditions.pdf

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Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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