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Sustainable agriculture as a battlefield of knowledge

Department of Environment and Geography

About the Project

A PhD studentship is available to investigate different voices, priorities and knowledge around sustainable agriculture and their impact on farming systems and biodiversity conservation. A broad comparative approach will be taken, considering conservation agriculture in maize systems in Africa, rice-fish co-cultures and upland swidden agriculture in SE Asia, with fieldwork focused on a single system and location. You will be based in the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity (LCAB) ( at the University of York (, supervised by leading experts in human-environment relationships (Lindsay Stringer) and environmental governance (Richard Friend).

This research project will apply a multi-scale political ecology lens and asks:
● How do different approaches to sustainable agriculture interact with more traditional farming systems, support land user empowerment and learning, and integrate multiple environmental knowledges?
● How do policies, institutions and knowledges combine in specific environmental, biodiversity, technological, gender and socio-cultural contexts to shape discourses, practices and experiences of sustainable agriculture?
● Are experiences of positive livelihood and biodiversity outcomes from dominant approaches dependent on particular combinations of environmental knowledge and the interactions of particular groups with farmers?

Potential field sites in Africa/Asia will enable you to work with local university partners, local government and international development organisations. You should have experience in environmental social sciences or environmental sciences, alongside a grounding in qualitative and quantitative methods. This project takes a political ecology approach, requiring knowledge of environmental and human systems. You will draw on a wide variety of literature and methods from disciplines as diverse as ecology, development studies and social anthropology.

LCAB will provide you with opportunities to interact with other students and researchers across departments and institutions, and will offer additional training as required.

An opportunity ( is also available to submit your own proposal for a fully funded studentship with LCAB.

Entry requirements

Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an Upper Second Class Honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this research project means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any relevant subject that provides the necessary skills, knowledge and experience for the project.


To qualify for UK (home) fee status, students must be from the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) or Islands (Channel Islands and Isle of Man) and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for the past three years.

Shortlisting: by 22nd Jan 2021
Interviews: Feb 2021


If you have any questions about the application procedure, please contact Maroula Hill: () or

Funding Notes

This studentship covers UK fees for 4 years and a tax-free stipend to match the UKRI’s minimum rate for 2021/22 (estimated £15860 per year) for 3.5 years. Non-UK citizens are welcome to apply but must pay the difference between the international and the UK fee rate themselves.

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