Call for Concept Proposals: Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS) project

Call for concept notes featimageIn collaboration with Cornell University and other partners, PIM will provide competitive grants for travel and training for bright, early career African researchers. The deadline to submit a concept proposal is March 15, 2017

UPDATE: See full list of selected 2017 STAARS Fellows 

The CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) is happy to announce the second round and call for concept proposals for the Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS) fellowship, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The project partners include Cornell University, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), the Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP), and the World Bank. Under the collaboration agreement between PIM and Cornell University, selected early career African researchers will get technical mentorship and support. The STAARS fellowship began in 2016 and to date has supported eight fellows.

STAARSThe STAARS project builds on the World Bank “Myths and Facts in African Agriculture” project to pursue in-depth, rigorous, policy-oriented research on the causal determinants of productivity and income growth, asset accumulation, rural employment, and risk management in African agriculture and rural spaces. Cornell University is the technical lead and global center of excellence in building and strengthening the initiative in collaboration with PIM. Other invited collaborators also continue to contribute to the development of the full initiative with funding support from AfDB and other sources.

Selected STAARS fellows will be paired with mentors at Cornell University with whom they will jointly author a paper on a topic of mutual interest relating to structural transformation in Africa south of the Sahara. PIM will support the publication of resulting research findings in high quality journals and as working papers. In addition, PIM will facilitate fellows’ participation in scientific and policy conferences.

Scope of Research and Geographic Focus

Prospective STAARS fellows are invited to develop proposals in the following thematic areas.

  • Dynamics of agriculture inputs use, technological change, and productivity growth in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Rural factor market performance, labor exits and productivity in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Food security, nutrition and health linkages in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Poverty dynamics and resilience against shocks in sub-Saharan Africa.

STAARS fellows’ rigorous policy analysis should use existing panel data, such as the Living Standards Measurement Study - Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) or similar datasets. LSMS-ISA panel datasets are available for a number of countries in Africa including Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi, and Uganda.


The call is open for early career African researchers, either late stage Ph.D. students or those who have completed their Ph.D. since 2011. Researchers must be based and working in Africa, with priority given to proposals relating to the research themes indicated above. Qualified female researchers are particularly encouraged to apply. While a Ph.D. is not mandatory, STAARS encourages fresh Ph.D. graduates who can benefit from a mentorship and additional training to become solid researchers. Fellows are expected to complete the proposed project by publishing findings as a working paper and submitting to a peer-reviewed journal by December 15, 2017.

The selected applicants will receive funds to cover travel and participation in a three week mentorship program at Cornell University. No funds are available to support an individual’s time, so permission from one’s supervisor will be required.

Application Process

The STAARS fellowship application process is managed by Cornell University, in collaboration with PIM. Applicants are required to prepare a maximum 2500 word (5 page) concept proposal, which motivates the selected research issues and objectives, outlines data sources, proposed methodology and contains a convincing plan for completing the project by December 15, 2017. All proposals shall be prepared in English. All proposals will be peer reviewed by experts from PIM and Cornell University.

The deadline to submit a concept proposal is March 15, 2017. Applicants should submit their completed proposal via email to Accepted applicants will be notified in mid-April and are expected to begin remote collaboration with their mentor immediately upon acceptance.

Not covered in this call

The proposed research and capacity development is expected to be undertaken as part of an ongoing effort by the scholar; STAARS will not cover the scholar’s time allocated to this research. The program also cannot support costs for any new data collection. Researchers are expected to be familiar with existing panel data sets and having a strong working knowledge of Stata or other econometric software and an interest in econometric analysis of large panel data sets.

Template for preparation of concept proposal

  • Applicant name, gender, nationality and country of residence.
  • Date of completion (or expected completion) of Ph.D.
  • Applicant’s current affiliation(s)
  • Title of the proposed research
  • Targeted country (countries)
  • Introduction and motivation that includes clear statement of research objectives and hypotheses.
  • Description of data sources and any prior experience working with the proposed data.
  • Proposed methodology
  • If applicable, summarize any preliminary results.
  • Proposed timeline for the research.
  • Bibliographic references (not included in the 2500 words)
  • CV of the applicant (not included in the 2500 words)

Featured photo: UNU-WIDER Conference on Learning to Compete Industrial Development and Policy in Africa. Curtesy of UNU-WIDER, Flickr.


  1. You only restrict it to PhD students. What about Masters students....?

    • Evgeniya Anisimova says:

      Hello Moses - thanks for your interest! This fellowship is specifically designed for very advanced PhD students and those who have recently earned their PhD. This basis is necessary for fulfilling the rigorous project requirements.

  2. Samuel Kimani says:

    I am a PhD student in my final year of completion and much interested in this project. Will the research involve new data collection or will it only depend on existing data? Thanks.

    • Evgeniya Anisimova says:

      Hello Samuel! Thanks a lot for your interest and good luck with the application!
      There is no funding for new data collection. The timeline of the STAARS fellowship is a bit short for data collection, as collaboration on the paper should start by late April. One of the criteria we will use to evaluate proposals is whether the applicant is going to be able to finish their paper by the end of the year, which is unlikely unless the data already exists. There would need to be a very convincing timeline associated with the data collection for the proposal to be considered for the fellowship.

  3. Bright Asante says:

    Does the sub Saharan africa as indicated suggest that it should cover all the countries?

    • Evgeniya Anisimova says:

      Thanks for your question, Bright! The proposal does not need to cover all of sub-Saharan Africa and it’s perfectly acceptable to concentrate on one country.

  4. Collins A ANTWI says:

    We have a concept that can create WEALTH among the poor peasant farmers in rural Ghana.
    We are understanding here that we can't bring on board our expertise just because we don't have a LEADER with PhD degree.
    In any case, could there be another program that can absorb our program which is the surest way to effectively end poverty and increase food production and security in our country Ghana?
    Thank You.

    • Please I am agronomist can I apply for this. I think It related to Agriculture extension and rural sociology.

      • STAARS Team says:

        Thanks for your interest in the fellowship. An agronomist can certainly apply if their work is related to the themes of the call for proposals.

    • STAARS Team says:

      Thank you for your query. This specific opportunity is for capacity-building among those with PhDs, so we will not be able to support your venture at this time. Best of luck with your work.

  5. Wahab Adesina Abudlkabir says:

    Currently, I am a MPhil research student and the timeline for programme is nine months which started January, 2017. However, I am expected to carry out a research that is part of my intended research work for Phd which centre on evalution of current irrigation facilities in the country to support agricultre revolution. I will like if I can fit in to your programme.

    • STAARS Team says:

      Thank you for your question. Unfortunately we are not offering the fellowship for MPhil students at this time, but you are welcome to apply once you are in the final year of your PhD, as it sounds like your work is relevant to the program themes. Best of luck with your studies.

  6. Olaleru Ibikunle says:

    Am a research scientist with a research institute in Nigeria and also a PhD student a the proposal level..Can I still apply because I actually just presented my proposal level this year...and since its stated that only PhD student at the advanced stage of there study can apply. Thanks.

    • STAARS Team says:

      Thank you for your inquiry. Currently we are only offering the fellowship to PhD students who are quite advanced (i.e. in the last year of their PhD) and those who have already finished. We hope you will apply once you are nearing completion of your PhD.

  7. I have finished my PhD since 2014, and worked on bioactive properties of biofortified maize(processing effects). Some part of the work being published but still have a lot of data yet to be published. Can I apply?

    • STAARS Team says:

      Thank you for your inquiry. It sounds like you are doing work that has important implications for African agriculture. The STAARS fellowship deals largely with the socioeconomic implications of agricultural transformation, so we would encourage you to focus on socioeconomic elements of your work if you opt to apply for the fellowship. Best of luck!

  8. Thank u for the call. I am in my final year PhD and working on one of the thematic areas as part of my PhD. Am l allowed to use that or l should develop something completely different? If it is part of my PhD then my current supervisors also have a right to authorship of the required paper at the end of the year. Will this be acceptable?

  9. STAARS Team says:

    Good question. Past fellows have used the STAARS Fellowship to support their PhD work in the way you are describing, so there is no need to develop a separate topic entirely. We do, however, expect that the work be carried out by the fellow with support from their Cornell faculty collaborator. As such, we would expect you get credit as first author of the paper. If your proposal is selected, the collaborator at Cornell would be committing to work with you directly, not your supervisors. The collaborator and fellow are responsible for negotiating the details of authorship and it would be your responsibility to manage any obligations to your supervisors.

  10. I'm agronomist and work on mesuring résilience indicator by associating household economy approch in sahel (Niger and Mali).
    Can I apply for this call?

    • STAARS Team says:

      Hi Rio. Yes, you can apply for the call. Keep in mind that the March 15 deadline is quickly approaching.

  11. Please I haven't received any acknowledgement after i submitted the proposal

    Any reason?

  12. STAARS Team says:

    Dear Bright, Due to the high volume of submissions, we don’t normally acknowledge receipt. However, we have checked and we can see that your submission was received. Thank you and we look forward to reviewing your proposal.

  13. Dear STAARS Team, unfortunately I could not see the call, when will the next call be launched. I am an academician working as a Lecturer at Sokoine University of Agriculture and would like to participate in implementing projects under STAARS

  14. Dear Dr. Mwajombe,

    Thank you for your inquiry. We’re sorry to hear that you missed the deadline this year, but we hope to offer the fellowship again next year. Please check our website for updates in early 2018.

    The STAARS Team

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