Fertilizer Research And Responsible Implementation in Northern Ghana

Fertilizer Research And Responsible Implementation

Balanced fertilizers are essential for sustainable agricultural intensification, certainly so on the African continent. Widespread adoption of appropriate fertilizers requires a transformation of the fertilizer and food systems that must be driven by evidence-based agrotechnical perspectives embedded in multi-stakeholder processes to create enabling conditions for adoption.

This public-private program “Fertilizer Research and Responsible Implementation (FERARI)” will be conducted in the Northern regions of Ghana and integrate 1) an on-the-ground implementation program to develop the fertilizer value chain and 2) transdisciplinary research by sandwich PhD’s and Postdoc’s.

The program will, among others, interact with the Ghanaian Agricultural Programs, programs from the lead institute IFDC, and programs of other directly and indirectly involved institutions, to reach impact at scale. The graduates will be supervised by promotors from Wageningen University and co-supervised by scientist from IFDC, the University Mohammed VI Polytechnique in Morocco and various Ghanaian Universities.

We are looking for 5 candidates for a Sandwich PhD program on four different disciplinary areas that will intensively interact to conducts the outlines research in direct collaboration with on-the-ground implementation activities. There is a strong preference for, and priority given to candidates from Ghana and Morocco to apply.


About UM6P:


Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P, https://www.um6p.ma/en) is an international higher education institution, established to provide research and innovation at the service of education and development for Morocco and the African continent. It has a state-of-the-art campus at the heart of the Green City of Benguerir, near Marrakesh. UM6P’s research approach promotes transdisciplinary and entrepreneurship spirit with an emphasis on international collaboration. This research program is conducted by the Agriculture Innovation and Technology Transfer Center (AITTC) of UM6P, in collaboration with IFDC, Wageningen University, and various Ghanaian Universities.

The major client of UM6P is the OCP group (http://www.ocpgroup.ma/en/home), a world leader in fertilizer production, providing capital and research funds to the University. In parallel, a new portfolio of clients is growing, with the development of an R&D cluster around the University and a growing number of international partnerships.


About IFDC :


IFDC (https://ifdc.org/) is a public international organization, governed by an international board of directors with representation from developed and developing countries. Since 1974, IFDC has focused on increasing and sustaining food security and agricultural productivity in over 100 developing countries through the development and transfer of effective and environmentally sound crop nutrient technology and agribusiness expertise. The organization’s collaborative partnerships combine cutting-edge research and development with on-site training and education. IFDC has contributed to the development of institutional capacity building in 150 countries through more than 700 formal training programs, primarily as part of IFDC’s long-term agricultural development projects. Demonstration plots, farmer field schools and in-field trainings have assisted millions of farmers in developing countries.



About Wageningen University :


Wageningen University & Research (https://www.wur.nl/en/wageningen-university.htm), is the only university in the Netherlands that specifically focuses on the theme ‘healthy food and living environment’, by working closely together with governments and the business community. Wageningen University’s research and education are based on a fundamental scientific approach and accordingly strongly geared toward application in practice. This is achieved through the close collaboration between different fields of expertise including both natural and social sciences. The University’s mission is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life.” The top quality of research at Wageningen University is crowned with the university’s position within the top 6 of the important citation indexes of its domain.

PhD 1: Analytical framework for fertilizer recommendation

PhD1 will focus on developing, applying and validating a Machine Learning model for yield prediction in Ghana. The innovative aspects are in the implementation of tailor-made Machine Learning models for agronomic applications. These shall include crop and site-specific fertilizer recommendations in terms of amounts, composition and application method. Prior to the model development, PhD1 shall be involved in the collection and compilation of yield and covariate data in a harmonized database. This is the groundwork required for subsequent sub-projects and will involve evaluating various data sources and publications on usable data, using the network of project partners to obtain datasets, harmonizing the data and checking their accuracy. The validation of the model shall be carried out in Northern and Brong Ahafo Regions of Ghana. The selected candidate must have a background in data science with experience in agronomy and soil science.


PhD 2: Effects of fertilization on productivity and nutritional quality of crops

PhD2 will focus on understanding the effects of fertility management through a range of fertilizer and organic inputs in a legume-cereal rotation and relay intercropping arrangements on crop and field productivity and nutritional value of produced grain (human nutrition) and straw (animal feed or soil organic matter as appropriate). The scientific innovation will be in enhancing our understanding of how blends including macro- and micro-nutrients can best be targeted in cereal-legume systems for enhanced food system and economic benefits at household level. The work is essentially experimental using on-farm, but researcher managed trials and analyzing the outcomes through a combination of statistics and process-based models to elucidate both effect sizes and variability and possible underlying causes. The successful candidate for this position has a background in crop physiology or crop science and training in quantitative approaches and systems analysis.


PhD 3: Socio-technical fertilizer interventions on farm productivity

PhD 3 will evaluate and experiment with socio-technical intervention in fertility management

focus on the farm management practices with respect to crop-soil fertility strategies and fertilizer application. The analysis integrates agronomic effects (e.g. nutrients balances, crop performance, weed control) and social effects (e.g. labor allocation, skill and knowledge requirements, costs and benefits). The analysis will be done for farms included in the government programs in Northern Ghana and Brong Ahafo, providing farmers with ‘balanced fertilizers.’ The sample will further consist of several farms where fertility experiments are applied (PhD 2). A baseline will be created from existing baseline data and several ‘control’ farms (not involved in the government program and experiments). The study will make a further analysis of outcomes in the short (the same year) and medium term (adaptation, adoption, rejection in the first two years after the intervention) and create a model (terms of reference) for a long-term impact analysis (5-10 years). The successful candidate for this position has a background MSc in agronomy or crop science with proven training in social science subjects or an MSc in social science with proven training in agronomy or crop science.


PhD 4: Socio-economic factors enhancing sustainable agricultural intensification

It is increasingly being realized that sustainable agricultural intensification in large parts of Africa requires enhancing farm productivity through integrated soil fertility management as well as promoting high value agricultural product chains and development of the rural non-farm economy. The aim of this PhD research is to improve the understanding of socio-economic factors that play a role in sustainable agricultural intensification in Northern Ghana. Research questions will center around farmers’ choices for fertilization packages, bottlenecks and institutional arrangements in the fertilizer value chain, and income sources of farmers. Answers to these research questions will be provided through a combination of (official and grey) literature study, econometric analyses of data collected through a large-scale farm household survey, one or more experiments (e.g. on improved storage methods) and a conjoint experiment among smallholders living in different parts of Northern Ghana. Expected output consists of four publishable papers which will form the core of a PhD thesis.


PhD 5: Social differentiation and interdependence in soil fertility systems

This PhD project investigates the relations between investments in soil fertility and diversity within and between farming communities. As part of this, it explores the technical and social interdependencies that shape whether or not and how different types of farmers are willing and able to invest in soil fertility. Based on such understanding, the project sets out to test and evaluate the efficacy of newly designed social arrangements in enhancing investment in soil fertility. Finally, the PhD projects examines whether and how current how current research, extension and policy interventions in Ghana address key constraints and barriers to investment in soil fertility, and how these may be re-oriented to increase their likely impact.



Selected candidates will benefit from a full scholarship through the University Mohamed VI Polytechnique for a sandwich program at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.


Applications must include :

  • A cover letter indicating how the profile of the candidate match with the required position
  • A detailed CV.
  • Contact information of 2 references

Application Deadline : March 15, 2020

Applicants :  Available to applicants from Ghana or Morocco only.


Required Skills

A completed MSc in one of the following:

1) Soil science and statistical modelling using machine learning methods

2) Agronomy and crop modelling, socio-technical fertilizer interventions at farm level

4) Agricultural economics and/or

5) Agricultural sociology.


Required Experience

  • Affinity with quantitative methodologies, modelling and handling large data sets for PhD’s 1 and
  • Affinity with both qualitative and quantitative methodologies in economics and social sciences for PhD’s 3, 4 and 5.
  • Strong motivation to address the challenges in the FERARI program,
  • excellent communication skills (written and oral) to interact among PhD candidates and with stakeholders in the value chain are essential ingredient to succeed in a dynamic environment.
  • Affinity with teaching and working with (BSc and MSc) students is desired as well.


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