Student Research Opportunity Program under Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative

The Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) Initiative is an African Union-led continental undertaking currently implemented in eight countries (Benin, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda). It is implemented under the guidance and oversight of the AU chaired Continental Steering Committee (CSC) to establish an African organic farming platform based on available best practices; and to develop sustainable organic farming systems and improve seed quality. Its mission is to promote ecologically sound strategies and practices among diverse stakeholders involved in production, processing, marketing and policy making to safeguard the environment, improve livelihoods, alleviate poverty and guarantee food security among farmers in Africa. The goal is to contribute to mainstreaming of Ecological Organic Agriculture into national agricultural production systems by 2025 in order to improve agricultural productivity, food security, access to markets and sustainable development in Africa. In addition, these efforts are hoped to reduce exploitation of the organic farmers in Africa.

The EOA initiative was started in response to the African Union Heads of State and Government’s call for the promotion of organic farming in Africa. The African Union Commission, in collaboration with several civil society organizations supporting ecological organic agriculture, organized an inception workshop in May, 2011 in Thika Kenya, with financial support from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) to discuss how to implement this decision. The workshop successfully resulted in a roadmap, concept note and an African Organic Action Plan to mainstream ecological organic agriculture into national agricultural production systems. The action plan was later submitted to donor agencies for financial support, and with successful pilot activities in six countries (Eastern Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda; Southern Africa: Zambia; and Western Africa: Nigeria) supported by SSNC. Baseline studies coordinated by Biovision Africa Trust (BvAT) were conducted in Benin, Mali and Senegal with support from SDC. Further planning meetings were held culminating in the development of an 8-country project proposal supported by SDC. SSNC with funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation (Sida) supports EOA Initiative in Eastern Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania) through civil society organizations. The European Union also supports EOA through the African Union (AU).

The initiative embraces holistic production systems that sustain the health of soils, ecosystems and people, and relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions rather than reliance on the use of external inputs with adverse effects on people’s total health (human, animal, plant and environmental). The Initiative’s five-year Action Plan is anchored on six interrelated pillars: (i) Research, training and extension, (ii) Information and communication, (iii) Value chain and market development, (iv) Networking and partnership, (v) Policy and programme development, and  (vi) Institutional capacity development. In the current SDC contribution, the initiative is driven by the first three technical pillars and fourth one for coordination, management and networking (Support and Cementing pillar).

The four objectives of the EOA Initiative are:

  1. To increase documentation of information and knowledge on organic agricultural products along the complete value chain and support relevant actors to translate it into practices and wide application. 
  2. To systematically inform producers about the EOA approaches and good practices and motivate their uptake through strengthening access to advisory and support services.
  3. To substantially increase the share of quality organic products at the local, national, regional and global markets.
  4. To strengthen inclusive stakeholder engagement in organic commodities value chain development by developing national, regional and continental multi-stakeholder platforms to advocate for changes in public policy, plans and practices.

The impact hypothesis of the initiative is that through the application of EOA best approaches and practices along the entire commodity value chains and their mainstreaming in development systems through National Platforms will realize improved food security, incomes and nutrition of smallholder households as well as the environmental sustainability of agricultural.

Implementation at country level is through Country Lead Organizations (CLOs) and their Pillar Implementing Partners (PIs) selected by their country national platforms, under the coordination of Biovision Africa Trust (BvAT) and PELUM Kenya, as the Lead Coordinating Organizations. The major activities in all the 8-country projects, include promoting interventions that bring about changes in various spheres, including public policies and investment plans, technical standards and certification procedures, research agenda and training curricula, advisory and information practices and the organization of markets and value chains.

Biovision Africa Trust (BvAT) is the lead coordinating organization in charge of two EOAI pillars (Information and Communication and Policy and Program Development) within which the function of research lies. BvAT and two partners PELUM Kenya and ICRAF are collaborating in undertaking some activities under the EOA initiative.

Under the function of ‘research component’ the EOA Initiative is seeking to support young researchers in undertaking studies the will contribute towards informing and populating the research data of organic agriculture.

About the Research Opportunity Program (ROP)

The Research Opportunity Program (ROP) gives Masters and PhD students a chance to participate and contribute to the EOA research agenda while earning the course credit. Successful students in the program have the rare opportunity to be involved in hands-on, cutting-edge research, working one-on-one with a public university while being financially supported by the EOA Initiative. Through the ROP, the student will gain practical skills and knowledge that can be applied to careers or towards future graduate studies. The student will use the experiences to build strong relationships with EOA practitioners in their research field, and explore new areas of interest.

Why the Research Opportunity Program (ROP)?

Through this call, the EOA Initiative aims to contribute towards building a body of scientific data supporting ecological organic agriculture by identifying, understanding and filling the gaps in the uptake of ecological organic agriculture practices along the entire commodity value chains. The goal of the program is to increase the number of underrepresented students who pursue graduate study, research careers and promote youth involvement in agriculture by funding their research. The ROP helps prepare undergraduates for graduate study through intensive research experiences with EOA practitioners and enrichment activities. The research opportunity will favor students currently undertaking organic research in a relevant topic.

Amount Being Offered

The amount being offered under this opportunity is 1000USD. The student should be therefore able to top up in case the research requies more.

Ideal candidate

  • Are you a masters or PhD student pursuing a sustainable agriculture or related course and you are aged below 35 years?
  • Have you already finished your research proposal or already undertaking an ‘organic research’ study?
  • Are you looking for support for your thesis?

...if you answered yes to all the questions above, then this is the program for YOU!


The deadline for applications is 25th of August, 2017

How to apply

Only online applications will be accepted and applications submitted after the deadline will not be considered. Follow this link to submit your application: APPLICATION FORM:

Featured Article

I was recently invited to a workshop where results of a study on factors influencing household adoption of renewable energy technologies in rural Kenya by the National Environment Trust Fund (NETFUND). The study was commissioned with support from KIRDI and the Swedish Embassy in Kenya.