Call for Concept Proposals: CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets

The CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) is calling for concept proposals for the Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS) fellowship, supported by the United States Agency for International Development. The STAARS project is a collaboration with Cornell University, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), the Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP), and the World Bank. PIM has established a collaboration agreement with Cornell University to provide technical mentorship and support for selected early-career African researchers. 

The STAARS project, as conceptualized and developed by these initial members of the consortium, 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 identified as 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.

Through this competitive call for proposals PIM aims to provide competitive grants for travel and training for bright, early career African researchers, in collaboration with Cornell University and in close coordination with AfDB, AERC, PEP, and the World Bank. 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 sub-Saharan Africa. 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:

  1. Dynamics of agriculture inputs use, technological change, and productivity growth in Africa south of the Sahara.
  2. Rural factor market performance, labor exits and productivity in Africa south of the Sahara.
  3. Food security, nutrition and health linkages in Africa south of the Sahara.
  4. Poverty dynamics and resilience against shocks in Africa south of the Sahara.

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 PhD students or those who have completed their PhD in 2011 or later. 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 PhD is not mandatory, STAARS encourages fresh PhD 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 31, 2016.

The selected applicants will receive funds to cover travel and participation in a two 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 fellows project application process for this call is managed by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) in collaboration with Cornell University. 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 publishing findings before December 31, 2016. 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 April 30, 2016. Applicants should submit their completed proposal via email to

Not covered under this call

The proposed research and capacity development is expected to be undertaken as part of an ongoing effort; 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

Name and affiliation of the applicant

Targeted country (countries)

Title of the proposed research

Introduction and motivation that includes clear statement of research objectives and hypotheses.

Description of data sources

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)