Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Call for Concept Proposals for the Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS) project


The CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM), supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Cornell University are calling for concept proposals for the Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS) Fellows program. The STAARS project is a collaboration between Cornell University and the African Development Bank (AfDB) to advance 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. PIM has established a collaboration agreement with Cornell University to provide technical mentorship and support for selected early career African researchers.

STAARS fellows will be selected through this competitive call for proposals. Once 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 and Cornell will facilitate fellows’ participation in scientific and policy conferences. 

The STAARS Fellowship began in 2016 and to date has supported 18 fellows from diverse backgrounds. Learn about past fellows here.

Scope of Research and Geographic Focus

Prospective STAARS fellows are invited to develop proposals in the following thematic areas.

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

STAARS fellows’ rigorous policy analysis should use existing data, such as the Living Standards Measurement Study - Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) or similar datasets from sub-Saharan Africa.


The call is open for early career African researchers, either Ph.D. students in their final year or those who completed their Ph.D. in 2014 or later. Priority is given to researchers based and working in – or soon returning to – Africa, with priority given to proposals relating to the research themes indicated above. Qualified female researchers are particularly encouraged to apply. STAARS encourages applications from fresh Ph.D. graduates who can benefit from a mentorship and additional training to become highly competent 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 15, 2019.

The selected applicants will receive funds to cover travel and participation in a three-week mentorship program at Cornell University. No funds are available to support an individual’s time, so written permission from one’s supervisor will be required. No funds are available to support data collection or other research expenses.

Application Process

The STAARS fellowship application process is managed by Cornell University, in collaboration with PIM. 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 December 15, 2019. 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 March 1, 2019. Applicants should submit their completed proposal via email to staars@cornell.edu. Accepted applicants will be notified in mid-April and are expected to begin remote collaboration with their mentor immediately upon acceptance.

Not Covered under this call

The proposed research and capacity development is expected to be undertaken as part of an ongoing effort by the scholar; STAARS will not cover the scholar’s time allocated to this research. The program cannot support costs for any new data collection. Researchers are expected to be familiar with existing data sets and have a strong working knowledge of Stata, R or other econometric software and an interest in econometric analysis of high quality data sets.

Template for preparation of concept proposal

  1. Completed 2019 STAARS Fellowship Applicant Information Form.
  2. Concept Proposal:
    • Ttile of the proposed research
    • Targeted Country (Countries)
    • Introduction and motivation that includes clear statement of research objectives and hypotheses.
    • Description of data sources(s) and any prior exprerience working with the prooposed data.
    • Proposed Methodology
    • If applicable, summarize any preliminary results.
    • Proposed timeline for the research
  3. Bibliographic references (not included in the 2500 words)
  4. CV of the applicant (not included in the 2500 words)

To learn more about the STAARS fellowship, read “…An exceptional opportunity to promote up-and-coming African researchers”, based on the interviews with previous fellows.