Two Postdoctoral researcher position, for 1.5 years, on remote sensing mapping and analyzing land use and labor dynamics in smallholders and large-scale farming in Sub-Saharan Africa

Researchers will contribute to the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant project MIDLAND (https://erc-midland.earth). Payments will be based on Belgian regulations, depending on prior research experience, and will include the benefits of the Belgian social security such as health insurance. This offer is also published on Euraxess: https://euraxess.ec.europa.eu/jobs/556702

Objectives: To improve the understanding of farm, land use and labor dynamics in particular in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), to develop land governance strategies that foster sustainable land use in emerging frontiers.

Research description: Two research positions are opened. Depending on the applicants, the articulation between these two research directions might be restructured.

Position 1 will focus on remote sensing mapping of field size dynamics, and in particular mapping smallholder versus large-scale cropland dynamics, in Northern Mozambique, with possible extensions in other study regions in SSA. The work will build on field and training data, knowledge and algorithms already developed as part of the MIDLAND project, which have been proved successful for mapping large-scale tree plantations. The work will provide data about rates and spatial patterns of three key dynamics linked to farm and field size, namely (i) large-scale land acquisitions and smallholder displacement, (ii) farm consolidation and emergence of medium-scale farmers, and (iii) farm fragmentation and marginalization.

Position 2 will focus on exploring and assessing the trade-offs between land productivity, labor productivity and labor demand in relation with farm size and alternative agricultures. The work will first use existing databases of household surveys, such as the FAO RuLIS dataset, to explore the tradeoffs space between land and labor productivity – classic indicators of farm efficiency – and the density of agricultural employment offered by various farming systems, used as an indicator of larger societal outcome, across range of countries and farm sizes. The researcher will then conduct a meta-analysis of these tradeoffs across various forms of alternative agriculture (organic, agroecology,…) based on published literature and data.

Profile required:

Position 1: A researcher holding a PhD degree, experienced in remote sensing of land use and data processing, ideally with Google Earth Engine. Specific experience in mapping land use dynamics in tropical, smallholder environment such as in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in particular in dry tropics, would be a strong asset. Beyond methodological skills, the candidate should have interest and knowledge about land use dynamics in Africa, smallholder / large-holders interactions, and sustainability.

Position 2: A researcher holding a PhD degree, experienced in land system science or other forms of human-environment and sustainability science, knowledgeable about land use and agricultural economic theories, with solid quantitative analyses skills. Experiences in data vizualisation (e.g., in R), in meta-analyses, and about alternative forms of agriculture (organic, agroecology,…) are all useful assets.

For both positions, the candidate should demonstrate an excellent command of the English language, good communication skills, and ability to work in a research team and to establish a local and international network.

Positions are for 1.5 years, with possibilities for extension depending on funding availability.

Candidates should submit a cover letter detailing qualifications and research interests as well as the Position (1 or 2) to which they apply, CV, and names and contacts of three referees to:

Prof. Patrick Meyfroidt – patrick.meyfroidt@uclouvain.be

The review of applications will start on October 5, 2020.

Starting date: When possible.