Applications for the Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS) Fellowship Program 2024 are open now. Early-career African academics who are chosen for this distinguished fellowship promote rigorous, policy-focused research on the stochastic factors that influence income development and productivity, asset accumulation, rural employment, and risk management in African agriculture and rural areas.

Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces
Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces

Application Deadline: January 19, 2024.

Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS) Fellowship Program 2024

STAARS Fellows will co-author a paper on a topic of mutual interest related to structural transformation in the African sub-Saharan region with professors, senior research staff, or affiliated researcher mentors from Cornell University, the World Bank, or PEP. The program’s goal is to publish the final study findings as working papers and in prestigious, peer-reviewed publications. The World Bank, PEP, and Cornell will also let fellows join in scientific and policy conferences, train them for professional development, and expand their global research networks.

Scope of Research and Geographic Focus

Potential STAARS Fellows are encouraged to create proposals for empirical research on Africa south of the Sahara in the following theme areas:

  • Utilization dynamics of agricultural inputs, technological advancements, and increased output.
  • Credit, labor, land, and product market performance are examples of rural elements, as are the connections to metropolitan markets.
  • Value chains and agri-food systems: their evolution and performance.
  • Links between nutrition, health, education, and food security.
  • Dynamics of poverty, risk mitigation, and shock resistance.
  • Sustainable management of natural resources.
  • Marginalized groups and gender.

The comprehensive policy analysis conducted by STAARS Fellows should make use of current data, such as the Demographic and Health Surveys, the Living Standards Measurement Study-Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA), or other comparable high-quality datasets from Africa south of the Sahara. The new data collection is not funded by STAARS.

Program Overview for Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS)

The STAARS program lasts about 15 months, starting with the data on anticipated selection and ending with the STAARS fellow delivering the final products. Selected STAARS fellows are paired with a (more junior) peer mentor in addition to at least one major mentor who shares an interest in the suggested topic and is a faculty member, senior research staff member, or affiliate researcher at Cornell, the World Bank, or PEP.

Mentoring and collaboration start as soon as the fellows are selected, and during the first several weeks of the fellowship, a series of launch workshops including the fellows, mentors, and STAARS leadership take place. A phase of consistent remote cooperation ensues, with virtual gatherings every week or every two weeks.

Training sessions are conducted throughout this time at pertinent junctures in the teams’ investigation. The purpose of training workshops is to support fellows’ professional growth and skill enhancement.

Skills related to coding and data administration, reproducible research procedures, technical writing, presentation abilities, time management, grant writing, navigating peer review, research ethics, and policy engagement planning are just a few examples of possible topics.

The STAARS fellows visit their mentors at the mentor’s university for three weeks in September 2024. During this time, they work hard on the research project, take part in feedback sessions, give a public seminar, and engage in network-building activities.

Funding 

The chosen candidates will be awarded financial aid to cover their expenses for travel and enrollment in a three-week mentoring program at the World Bank or Cornell University (depending on mentorship). The remaining training for professional development and research coordination will be done remotely. It is anticipated that fellows will devote a substantial amount of time to the suggested research and capacity-building projects.

Each fellow will receive a small honorarium. The academics’ time spent on this research will not be reimbursed by STAARS. Also, there is no availability of salary assistance. If chosen, a letter of support from the candidate’s present manager, supervisor, or adviser is needed. This specifically states that enough work time would be made available for full program participation. The program is unable to cover the expenses of collecting any fresh data.

Eligibility Criteria 

  • Available to African scholars in their early careers with a Ph.D. no earlier than 2018. African nationals residing in, or shortly to return to, Africa are given preference when it comes to research proposals pertaining to the aforementioned research areas.
  • We especially want qualified female researchers to apply.
  • New Ph.D. graduates who can use mentoring and further training to become globally renowned and respected researchers are encouraged to apply to STAARS. By December 13, 2024, fellows should have finished the intended project. By June 30, 2025, they should have submitted the draft working paper to conferences and/or peer-reviewed journals.
  • Researchers must be interested in the econometric analysis of high-quality data sets. They should be familiar with and have proven access to existing data sets. Also, possess a solid working understanding of the necessary tools, usually Stata and/or R. An advantage is being familiar with georeferenced data and the GIS tools needed to handle it.
  • At the finalist level, candidates’ proficiency with R and/or Stata will be tested.

Application

Fill out the research and applicant information parts of the online application. Attach the following files in a merged PDF or ZIP package after the application form:

  • Research proposal (maximum of 2,500 words). The proposed study’s title, the targeted country or countries, an explanation of the study’s purpose and objectives, a list of data sources and any prior experience working with the proposed data, a proposed methodology, a summary of any preliminary findings, a suggested timeline for the research, and bibliographic references (not included in the 2500 words) are all included in the introduction and motivation section of the paper.
  • The applicant’s resume.
  • A letter or other evidence from the data stewards confirming that the applicant will have access to the data for use in the proposed project is required if the application is requesting to use data that is not publicly available.
  • A letter of support from the applicant’s present supervisor guarantees that, should they be chosen, they will have enough time to work on this project.
  • A copy of the biodata page from the passport and, if relevant, any valid US visas.

In conclusion, the Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS) Fellowship Program 2024 is an excellent opportunity for early-career African researchers to conduct rigorous policy-oriented research on the casual determinants of productivity and income growth, asset accumulation, rural employment, and risk management in African agriculture and rural spaces.

The program offers mentorship, professional development training, and international research networks to selected fellows. The thematic areas for empirical work on Africa south of the Sahara include the dynamics of agricultural input use, technological change, and productivity growth; rural factors; agri-food systems and value chains; food security; poverty dynamics; sustainable natural resource management; and gender and marginalized groups.

The fellowship program is for 15 months, and fellows receive funds to cover travel and participation in a three-week mentorship program at Cornell University or the World Bank, along with a modest honorarium.

The program is open to early-career African researchers, with priority given to researchers who are African nationals and working in or soon returning to Africa, with proposals relating to the research themes indicated above.

Deadline

  • The deadline for receipt of applications is January 19, 2024.

Open this link for more details about the STAARS Fellowship Program 2024.

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